Rebecca Lynn Bench, 40, is charged with burglary of a habitation. A second suspect, Laura Kristen Campas, 41, is wanted for questioning.
According to police, the two women were posing as real estate agents when they stole from a home in the 700 block of E. 17th Street on July 5, a little after 1pm. The homeowners left the suspects at the home and returned to find items missing.
The same suspects are believed to be responsible for at least one other related case. That one happened in the 2300 block of Welch on July 19.
"In speaking with Ms, Bench, they also would find homes online using HAR.COM and find their prospective homes," HPD Officer Natalie Barnes said. "Basically when you do that, you know, you get a layouy of someone's house pretty well, and so it doesn't take you long to maneuver through someone's house that way."
Bench was arrested on August 6 at her Baytown home without incident. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Campas is urged to contact the HPD Burglary and Theft Division at 713-308-0900 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
The Houston Association of REALTORS® has the following safety reminders:
REALTORS® typically remind their clients whose homes are listed for sale that strangers will be walking through their home during showings or open houses. They are advised to hide valuables in a safe place as well as to remove keys, credit cards, jewelry, crystal, furs and other valuables from the home or lock them away during showings. Also to remove prescription drugs that are also known to be a target of thieves.
Home sellers should NOT leave personal information like mail or bills out in the open where anyone can see it. They are also urged to lock down computers, laptops and any other expensive, easy-to-pocket electronics, like iPods, before a showing.
Home sellers should not show their home by themselves. They need to know that not all agents, buyers and sellers are who they say they are. Predators come in all shapes and sizes. Sellers should avoid talking to other agents or buyers, and refer all inquiries to their designated REALTOR®.
At an open house, be alert to the pattern of visitors' arrivals, especially near the end of showing hours. In some areas, a group of thieves will show up together near the end of the open house and, while a string of "potential buyers" distracts the agent, the rest of the group walks through the house, stealing any valuables they come across.
REALTORS® are reminded that when leaving a client's property, whether after an open house or a standard showing, to make sure that all doors and windows are locked. Thieves commonly use open houses to scout for valuables and possible points of entry, then return after the agent leaves.
When the home seller returns to his/her house, they should immediately verify that all doors are locked and all valuables accounted for.
Last, but definitely not least: Immediately contact the police if you suspect any suspicious/criminal activity.
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