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Ex-real estate agent pleads guilty to selling stolen appliances

A former Charlotte-area real estate agent has pleaded guilty to selling appliances she stole from vacant homes owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Anne Tompkins, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said Tuesday.

Sember Lynn Smathers, 49, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to steal government property.

Smathers, who sold real estate through Exit Realty, obtained a master key for the HUD homes from Harrington Moran and Barksdale, the company that managed the properties, according to her indictment.

As a real estate agent, Smathers had access to listings of vacant HUD properties in the Charlotte region. From 2008 to 2009, Smathers and others who aren’t named in court records used the key to enter the homes and conduct “clean outs,” stealing refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers and other appliances, according to the indictment.

Smathers and the other, unnamed people sold the appliances from her home in Shelby, the indictment says.

In February 2009, she and another person signed a lease for a building, from which they ran a business, Cheap Stuff, to sell the appliances and other items taken from the HUD homes.

Smathers also advertised the appliances, including on Craigslist and in The Shelby Star.

Smathers stole roughly $13,678 in appliances from the homes, Tompkins’ office said.

She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and has been released on bond pending sentencing.

No one else has been charged in the case.

Tompkins’ office said Smathers no longer works for Exit Realty. Attempts to reach Smathers, Exit Realty, and Harrington Moran and Barksdale were unsuccessful.

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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