It is hardly a secret that many consumers think of us brokers as thieves, liars and assorted other unsavory characters. But spies?
Alas, it seems that we’ll have to contend with that false appellation as well, thanks to the arrest of 11 alleged Russian spies.
I’ve written before about the disgracefully low threshold for becoming a real estate agent. Proof: 18 percent of the alleged spies, who apparently failed to compromise U.S. national security over the years, are said to have claimed careers in real estate.
One of the suspects, who goes by “Anna Chapman,” lists herself on LinkedIn as CEO of Property Finder Ltd. She has on LinkedIn recommendations from a couple of folks with foreign names. She also has a mostly fictionalized résumé, according to published reports of comments from the firms for which she supposedly worked.
When I clicked on “my company” on LinkedIn, the site connected me to a Russian-language site, “domdot.ru,” not exactly what I think of us deep cover. In any case, I also searched for Property Finder and came up with what seems to be the concern of which she identified herself as CEO.
It turns out that the gentleman pictured above, Alan Chesterman, (note that Anna and he happen to share the same initials) is portrayed as founder, in 2003, chairman and CEO of the company, which, in fact, deals in real estate. Anna’s name is nowhere to be found.
The second alleged spy, known as “Tracey Lee Ann Foley,” worked as a contract employee for the Redfin brokerage in suburban Boston. She was paid at the rate of $100 a day to show properties, according to reports quoting CEO Glenn Kelman. Said he:
“To be honest with you, it’s hard for me to imagine that she was the top spymaster in this ring of spies, if she is guilty as charged.
“She did not have a position that gave her access to the halls of power.
“She was in an entry-level position at our company.”
Unsurprisingly, the company said, a background check showed that she had no criminal record and that her Social Security number was valid. Foley told Redfin that she had worked for two other real-estate brokerages previously.
“She was a great field agent. She was very well-liked by her customers. She was a total sweetheart,” said Kelman.
“We couldn’t feel sillier about having hired a Russian spy,” he confessed in a blog.
It is no small thing that our national security has been potentially jeopardized. But that’s nothing: I’m chewing nails over another aspect of the case.
We who own real-estate businesses have enough trouble burnishing our reputations. Now, we are further tarnished by a disclosure that there are spies plotting among us–as us! Talk about a breach of broker ethics!
Thus, let me clear about this: I am not a spy. Trust me.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022