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Alleged hot Russian spy a real estate agent, another alleged spy is a Redfin staffer

Russian espionage

While details of the eleven arrests made of alleged Russian spies continue to pour in, it is notable that two happen to have chosen (or been assigned?) the real estate profession. Immediately upon the arrest of Tracey Foley, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman explained in a blog statement that her employment screening was clean, her track record as a contract field agent at Redfin was good and that she has worked at other brokerages like Wiechart since 2007.

Immediately, Twitter lit up saying that they don’t call it “RED”fin for nothing which although is a little funny, it’s completely unfair, given that no espionage conviction has taken place, it’s all still alleged and because she had a social security number that checked out. Although as a business owner, I wouldn’t personally have put as much detail into the public eye for legal reasons, it is Glenn’s track record to be as transparent as possible (plus, the phones ring less, business can go on and reporters can copy and paste his statement).

The other RED connection

Although I cannot confirm whether or not it’s true, it is being said that the 28 year old hot red head Russian, Anna Chapman (who seems to be the face person of the alleged espionage ring) is a licensed real estate agent. She was said to be a rich socialite and a young up and comer who even video blogged with frequency.

Anna does not say on her Facebook profile what her career is, but of the few things she’s a fan of, one of them is MostProperties.com which has no offices in the U.S. but has offices in Russia, so she’s at a minimum a real estate fan. Interestingly, she and I have some Facebook friends in common which was really surprising to me!

One interesting tidbit is that although the Redfin agent’s name is Tracey, she too went by Ana- is that a spy code name? I have to admit after watching and reading a lot about the spy case, much of their alleged espionage activities have been mocked, with commentary equating their spy activities to a seven year old’s sleuth kit armed with not much more than “invisible ink” which is just lemon juice to be heated up to once again become visible. Someone made the joke that they spied by Googling things and by hunting and pecking around Facebook.

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So although they’ve been nabbed as spies, it is debatable as to how dangerous they really were and there might not be reason for so many people to be up in arms screaming “Cold War II!”

While we can joke about it all we want, the allegations are pretty serious as it has been said that more than one of the alleged spies made contact with high level officials.

Why were they in real estate?

Because real estate can be a relatively nomadic career choice for some and one that isn’t monitored full time by a boss the way a clerical assistant or a manual labor worker is. This would have freed up at least a bit of time for alleged spy activities.

Real estate agents are often known to be highly involved in local politics, so it isn’t a stretch of the imagination that a spy would be well suited for the role of an agent as it wouldn’t be strange to canoodle with politicians in that role.

Real estate can be a pretty good pay day and the bar to entry is fairly low and doesn’t require a college degree like most industries with that pay scale, so it is a natural fit for someone who is allegedly new to the country.

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What other reasons can you think of that would make real estate an unsurprising fit for alleged spies? Let’s chat in comments (but keep the “red” references to a minimum, this isn’t an inquisition, guys).

PS: bonus points for anyone who knows either of these ladies and can tell us about them in comments OR if anyone can confirm that Anna Chapman is indeed licensed.

Photo above is Anna Chapman’s Facebook profile picture.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Bill

    June 30, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Interesting. Beyond the freedom and normal moving around how about the ability to easily and quickly use different internet connections? Open houses, Realtor tours, vacate listings: They could bounce around to a bunch of seemingly unrelated connections…not sure how that’d fit in the spy world but might be a help.

  2. Ruthmarie Hicks

    June 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    THe “red” part is kind of ironic. The Soviet Union is no more. One of the primary explanations is as you said – time management. I worked as an employee for many years and you are treated as a possession more than a human being. I had ZERO control over my time – including holidays, evenings and weekends. There is a lot of forced unpaid overtime in the private sector. I find most in the real estate industry – who have been there for some time – don’t “get” how restrictive it is. The work day for employees is endless.

    Another idea…. I have a letter written to my late mother back in the late 1950s. At the time, she was a radio interviewer, who also wrote for a couple of NY papers. She started out as a singer and sometimes toured Europe and the Mid-East in any one of these capacities. The letter was from the CIA. They wanted to use her in the field. The type of work that she did put her in contact with many different types of people in an almost random way – the perfect person to gather information without looking suspicious. Real estate – same deal. You are making contact with many different people on an almost random basis.

    If you need to meet your “contact” in the flesh – showing them a home where no one is present under the guise of doing business is a perfect cover. It is unlikely that there are hidden cameras or recording devices. Although such meetings are probably not as necessary these days.

    However, the ability to make numerous contacts without arousing suspicion – I would vote for that as big reason for a spy choosing real estate.

  3. Doug Francis

    July 1, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    I am constantly working to “not” be a secret agent!

    Although I can be a sleeper agent when preparing for a vacation…

  4. Property Marbella

    July 2, 2010 at 3:00 am

    I do not give a damn at this red affair, she and the other has just been young and stupid and become swindled in something they do not know about.
    Just my 2 cent.

  5. Nadina Cole-Potter

    July 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I am old enough to remember the heights of the cold war and the arrest of many serious spies doing serious work in both countries. And the execution of an American married couple (who left 2 children) by the U.s. who spied for the Soviet Union. This case, in contrast, is hilarious! It reminds me of an old PBS “Masterpiece Theater” multi-week feature called, I think, “Sleepers.” It was about some Russian spies who were trained to speak British English and sent to England as spies but to blend in as ordinary Joes who loved their pint at the pub, soccer, became blue- and white-collar workers, married, had children, lived in the suburbs (except one who lived the life of an investment banker in London), and totally blended in. They disappeared off the Soviet radar until a particularly driven KGB administrator discovered the mock up of the British home (village?) in which the spies had been trained to pass as British and started to track them down. Needless to say, the spies did not want to return to a frozen, depressing, short-on-liberty, short on every material human comfort Soviet Union. Even their British “handler” had lost track of them and, when discovered, went to great lengths to cover for them and to stay in England himself.

    What is even more hilarious about this episode is how huffy the Russians are about the FBI arrests and charges. Officially and unofficially, the Russians are acting like the victimized injured party instead of the perps. And, frankly, given the superficial, result-less level of the operation, I am not sure why the official Russians even acknowledge that the arrested ones are theirs. Have they no pride?

  6. Denise Hamlin

    July 3, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    It seems to me any job where you are an independent contractor and don’t answer to a “boss” is probably a good place to start for a spy. That would include real estate.

    Having said that, I thought spying was a thing of the past. Can’t imagine these folks got any access to anything they couldn’t find in the WSJ or on the internet. Weird to say the least.

  7. Carrie

    July 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    RE agents have access to people’s houses…that means files, personal computers, or other personal information contained in said houses. Maybe they were just trying to get into rich peoples’ houses and steal their identities or money? Or perhaps there were specific targets who they knew of or hoped would be putting their houses on the market.

  8. Jonathan Benya

    July 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Ah the big red scare returns. Be careful with you post there Lani, if you guys had mutual friends, all of us here at AgenGenius may be at risk of aiding the enemy, LOL!

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