SANTA CRUZ — Some real estate agents in the county are trying to stop a “flier bandit” who has been emptying out brochure boxes from homes listed for sale.
Patti Erickson, a realtor with Keller Williams, saw the man Sunday after hosting an open house on the Westside of Santa Cruz. Erickson said she spoke to the man and without responding he took all of the brochures and drove away.
“He didn’t say anything, he didn’t look at me,” Erickson said. She hosted open houses at the property Thursday, Friday and Sunday and the brochure box was empty each day she arrived. Erickson described the man as bearded and wearing dirty clothes.
Other realtors have reported the man taking brochures in Rio Del Mar, Aptos, Live Oak, Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz.
The Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors sent out a Realtor Safety Alert earlier in the summer, dubbing the man the “flier bandit.” The alert said taking the brochures is part of a competition to win a bride.
“The police know who he is and have spoken to him,” as written in the alert. “The reason for his thievery is that ‘he is in a spiritual cult and there is a contest to get as many flyers as possible. He gets a point for the flyers and could possibly win a prize. His prize is a bride.’ This is what he told the investigator and unfortunately, he is a part of this contest until October. He will continue to steal flyers every day and there is little recourse.”
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. The man is a Santa Cruz resident and has been identified and contacted by deputies, according to Sgt. Dee Baldwin, public information officer for the county Sheriff’s Office. Five incidents have been reported, he said. The Sheriff’s Office did not release the name of the man taking brochures because of the ongoing investigation and because taking the brochures isn’t a crime, Baldwin said.
“He has some personal beliefs he is pursuing,” said Sgt. Dee Baldwin. “We want the behavior stopped.”
The man is taking brochures from publicly accessible listing locations, Baldwin said, which means it isn’t considered a crime. ]It would be considered a crime if he was cited for trespassing. The man would have to return to a property after receiving a warning from deputies that he can’t be there, and the homeowner or real estate agent at the property would need to want to press charges.
The man told deputies that he expects to stop taking brochures Oct. 1, according to Baldwin.
Misty Ewald, a realtor with eXp Realty, said she fills a brochure box with around 60 brochures a couple of times per month. She found the brochures gone at a home in Rio Del Mar a couple weeks ago. A colored flier can cost 25 cents to print and increases in price depending on the paper used. Robert Locatelli, a realtor with eXp Realty, said one of his brochures could cost up to $4 each to print.
“He’s stealing fliers from every box, no matter how often they’re refilled,” Ewald said.
Sellers aren’t happy because they feel like they’re not getting enough advertising for their homes, Ewald said. Agents aren’t happy either because they are wasting paper and ink and it’s costing more to print brochures more frequently. Some agents have to use less expensive paper to offset costs. The excessive brochure taking also affects business: a home can stay on the market longer because it isn’t getting as much exposure, Ewald said.
“He’s been doing it to my properties nonstop,” said Robert Aldana, also a realtor with Keller Williams. The man has been taking brochures from Aldana’s properties for sale on Bean Creek Road, Scotts Valley Drive, High Street since shortly before July 4, Aldana said.
To report information about the investigation, call 831-471-1121.