California 'flyer bandit' is stealing open house brochures for a prize

Police say the man is in a competition, organized by a local cult, in which whoever collects the most flyers wins a bride

A Santa Cruz “flyer bandit” has been lurking at open houses and taking off with boxes of agents’ brochures.

This summer, the Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors sent out a safety warning alerting members to a so-called “flyer bandit”  emptying the brochure boxes attached to open house signage in several nearby cities. His suspected motive? According to the local police, the man is in a competition organized by a local spiritual cult in which whoever collects the most flyers wins a bride.

Neither the identity of the suspect nor the spiritual leanings of the cult were immediately clear.

“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,'” reads the alert. “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.”

Courtesy of Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors

Local agents and homeowners are far from amused. Realtors are worried that he is keeping potential customers away from seeing the open houses while some pointed out that colored flyers can cost between 25 cents and $4 each to print. So far there have been reports of the man targeting at least five open houses in Rio Del Mar, Aptos, Live Oak, Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz.

“He’s stealing flyers from every box, no matter how often they’re refilled,” Misty Ewald, an agent with eXp Realty, told The Mercury News. She filled a brochure box with 60 brochures for an open house in Rio Del Mar and found them all gone earlier this summer.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is looking into the situation but, as the open houses are publicly advertised, the act of taking all the brochures is not a crime. As a result, the suspect’s name has not been released and there is not much the police can do besides monitor the situation. Any trespassing claim would need to be made by the homeowner and would be a tough point to argue since the brochure boxes are technically out there for the public to take.

A SCCAR spokesperson told Inman that agents “can consider not putting flyers out” for the time although it is a tough choice because “sellers want them” out there to help advertise the choice. As a result, everyone involved hopes that the flyers bandit will do as he said and stop taking the flyers by Oct. 1. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 1-831-471-1121.

Email Veronika Bondarenko