Agent Pleads Guilty To Stealing Property From Vacant HUD Homes

Collaborative efforts by both real estate agents and investors can serve the greater good of the entire housing sector. Each brings a unique set of talents to the table that facilitates timely and profitable transactions. However, as an investor, it is important to know the intentions of any agent you plan to work with.

Of particular concern, however, are those agents that are willing to jeopardize their clients’ agenda for their own personal gain. Understand the intentions of anyone you work with and make sure agents are on your side. While the majority of real estate agents act in accordance with the law, there are a select few that have demonstrated an increased propensity for fraudulent actions.

None may be more apparent than a recent case brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer. According to reports issued by the U.S. Justice Department, a real estate agent recently pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal government property. Sember Lynn Smathers, 49, has been accused of selling household appliances she illegally removed from vacant homes owned by the federal housing agency.

Court records, that have since been made public, indicate that Smathers stole approximately $13,678 worth of appliances from vacant homes. She used her position as a real estate agent to gain access to the listings of vacant homes in the Charlotte area that were owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urbane Development (HUD). Between September 2008 and July 2009, Smathers used her master key to enter each vacant home and steal whatever she could, including refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, clothes and lawn maintenance equipment.

Smathers then proceeded to elicit the goods over several Internet websites and through a business she established called “Cheap Stuff.”

In one particular instance, Smathers and a co-conspirator acquired stolen property while subcontractors were simultaneously working within the vacant HUD property. When questioned about the removal of appliances from the property, Smathers indicated they were ordered to do so by the same subcontractor that was employing the present contractors. By falsely representing her affiliation, she was able to take the appliances without being apprehended.

Having recently pleaded guilty to her past transgressions, she now faces the possibility of several years in prison and a $250,000 fine.