The prominent head of one of California’s largest real estate brokerages has taken a leave of absence amid allegations that he made secret video recordings of guests at several properties he owns using hidden cameras in bedrooms and bathrooms.
Michael Patrick Lyon, who has headed Sacramento-based Lyon Real Estate since taking the company over from his father in 1974, has denied the allegations, saying that surveillance equipment turned over to federal law enforcement authorities by his estranged wife was used for security purposes, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Lyon and his second wife, Kimarie "Kim" Lyon, are in the midst of a divorce proceeding. Last year, Kim Lyon turned over to federal authorities surveillance equipment previously installed in the attic of the couple’s home, The Bee reported, citing law enforcement documents.
The FBI and Department of Justice closed a 16-month investigation on Tuesday, the newspaper said, but the Sacramento County district attorney and sheriff have launched their own joint investigation.
On Tuesday, Lyon Real Estate announced that company president Jean Li, who was appointed president and chief operating officer in 2004, was stepping into the role as CEO "until further notice." Li has a background in economics and accounting and has been with Lyon since 1987, according to the company’s website.
In an e-mail provided to agents to pass on to their clients, the brokerage said Michael Lyon was taking a "leave of absence" in the wake of "numerous media stories offering scurrilous and unfounded allegations."
"These allegations have already been thoroughly investigated by the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI, and these agencies have found the accusations to be baseless," the company said.
"The Sacramento County District Attorney’s office is now completing its own investigation, which is its duty. We fully expect that the (District Attorney’s office) will shortly complete its investigation and ultimately arrive at the same conclusion as the U.S. Attorney and the FBI, which is that Mike Lyon has done nothing illegal and will not be charged with any crime."
Founded in 1946 by William L. Lyon, Lyon Real Estate is one of the largest independent brokerages in California. On its website, the company lists contact information for 914 agents working out of 17 offices.
According to the brokerage’s license, as of today, Michael Lyon is no longer an officer of William L. Lyon & Associates.
Lyon remains the chairman of the board of MetroList Services Inc., a Sacramento-based multiple listing service that serves more than 20,000 subscribers in seven counties, the company’s chief executive said.
Lyon also remains a director of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, a referral network owned by 50 real estate brokerages that serves more than 600 companies.
"Based on the clearing of Mr. Lyon by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the ongoing nature of the local investigation, our leadership does not feel it would be appropriate to change his status at this time," a spokeswoman for the company said.
"We fully support our member company, Lyon Real Estate, and prefer not to comment on the matters involving Mr. Lyon personally."
According to Lyon’s broker license, he is also an officer of Trendgraphix Inc., a Sacramento-based company that provides real estate market reports for real estate brokers and agents. The company, which claims ongoing relationships with more than 100 brokerages and 48 MLSs in 18 states, shares the same mailing address as Lyon Real Estate.