Thieves raiding medicine cabinets at open houses

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by DEBBIE DENMON / WFAA

khou.com

Posted on May 16, 2012 at 8:15 AM

FRISCO, Texas — An open house can be an open opportunity for a new kind of crime.

Real estate agent Kyle Rovinsky learned that first-hand after showing a high-end home in Frisco. He said a woman deliberately distracted him while her boyfriend raided the medicine cabinet.

"At that particular house, it was a bottle of Vicodin, and it was a full bottle," Rovinsky said. "I think there were 30 pills in it. It created all kind of problems for the homeowner, because they had to go get the prescription refilled."

We caught up with Rovinsky, a 12-year real estate veteran, showing a $1.7-million home in North Dallas, and he is a little nervous about the potential liability.

He's not alone.

Real estate agents are attending more seminars to learn how to protect the homeseller.

"It used to be jewelry we would tell home sellers to hide —  now it's drugs," Rovinsky said.

Real estate agents say the thieves pretend to be homebuyers and head straight to the master bedroom to rummage through drawers. The drugs of choice include prescription-strength pain pills, anti-depressants and Ritalin.

"I would tell the homeowner, find any of these orange [prescription] bottles you have in your bathroom, put it in [a] shoebox and collect it all, and put the shoebox somewhere safe," Rovinsky said.

We talked to recovering addict Michael Fowler, who said this type of crime is more common than you might think.

"Kind of 'Sunday paper' shopping...  see what open houses are in rich communities," Fowler said. "That's what my friends used to do. They would look in the paper to see which homes to raid for medicine."

The value of pain pills on the street is another reason open houses are becoming  prime targets for drug thieves.

Amara Durham with Caron Texas, a non-profit rehabilitation and  treatment center, said drug addicts and drug pushers stand to gain.

"That means if you have someone who's been prescribed Oxycontin, and they are taking a pill four times a day —  40 milligrams — one bottle has a street value of almost $5,000," Durham said.

She said this is an epidemic, and the face of addiction has changed.

"When we think of a drug addict, we think of someone in a dark alley, addicted to heroin with a needle in their arm — but that's not the only case," Durham said.

It's just the opposite — nicely-dressed folks that fit right into a fancy open house, but it's just the latest scheme to feed a bad habit.

It's now so bad that real estate agents warn homesellers to put their prescription and over-the-counter medications in a safe.

Some Realtors are now asking open house visitors to show them a driver's license before offering a tour of the home.

"Some people think this is so rude, but I even ask other real estate agents to attend my open house to have an extra set of eyes," Rovinsky said. "Because when you have a distraction, it takes just a few minutes to wipe out someone's medicine cabinet."

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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