Drama in the Myrtle Beach real estate scene
Two Myrtle Beach 21st century franchisees filed a complaint against eXp Real Estatealleging that eXp Realty agent Joel Barber stole profits and private real estate data during covert and “unauthorized” late night visits.
In the lawsuit, which was filed last Wednesday in state court in South Carolina’s Horry County, Century 21 Barefoot Realty and Century 21, the Harrelson Group alleges that Barber entered the offices of the Harrelson Group “without authorization “Six times between 10:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. accessed “password-protected” company computers to steal customer data.
According to the legal documents, Barber’s alleged purpose was to take real estate “prospects and leads assigned to other brokers” for “his own personal benefit” and that of the other defendants, Darcy Varney and eXp Realty. The legal documents cite videos of someone, believed to be Barber, entering and leaving the office captured on the Harrelson Group’s Ring camera system as evidence, according to the lawsuit.
Barber had worked for the Harrelson Group on a contract basis since March 2017. Under Barber’s contract, his responsibilities included selling and listing approved properties in association with the estate agency. The contract, which was in the legal documents, also stated that after his dismissal, Barber was not to use any private information or material he had obtained or learned about during his time with the company.
Barber’s contract was terminated on February 7, 2021. Since then, he has been an agent for eXp.
Greg Harrelson, the chairman of the Harrelson Group, said in his affidavit that after Barber was fired, he noticed Barber listing properties for sale online “using information that could only be obtained from the non-public database” belonging to the Harrelson group. He also claims that Barber used company-owned photos in his ads. Mills claimed the same thing happened with some of his ads.
Barber was found by police on the Century 21 property in the early morning hours of February 7, according to the lawsuit. Police came to the office building after Century 21 Barefoot Realty agent Kevin Mills told police he believed Barber was there to steal information. Century 21 Barefoot Realty shares an office with the Harrelson Group.
The Myrtle Beach police report says Barber denied the allegations and said he was simply looking for “ideas to better improve his ‘team’.” Barber was then escorted off the property by the attending officer and placed on a trespassing notice.
In his affidavit, Harrelson claimed that once Barber was in the office building, Barber needed access to a locked office belonging to one of the company’s other real estate agents. Harrelson said he thought Barber may have used a “credit card to break the lock.”
Logging records from the laptop from which the information was allegedly stolen also match the times of Barber’s alleged office visits, according to Harrelson’s affidavit. The lawsuit also claims that Barber “hacked” into the computer to obtain the information, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In addition to allegedly taking private real estate data, including the Century 21 list and clients the Harrelson Group was working on, the lawsuit claims Barber also deleted the real estate listing and client record from the company’s system. .
After stealing and deleting real estate records, plaintiffs claim Barber contacted clients belonging to the Harrelson Group and created listings. This allowed Barber to earn a commission that otherwise would have gone to the Harrelson Group.
Mills of Century 21 Barefoot Realty made very similar statements in his affidavit. He alleges that Barber entered the office of one of his real estate agents without authorization and removed private real estate records from a company computer. Computer log records again show that the computer in question was accessed during the hours consistent with Barber’s alleged visits recorded by the Ring Camera System, according to the lawsuit.
In his affidavit, Mills claimed that Barber emailed “stolen leads” to another competing real estate agent, Ryan Picthall, with whom he allegedly agreed “to split the profits 50/50 on any resulting sale”. A copy of an email from Barber to Picthall containing real estate leads was included in Mills’ affidavit, but the leads themselves have been redacted, so it is impossible to verify whether any allegedly stolen leads exist. . Like Harrelson, Mills also claims that Barber made changes to his computer by modifying or deleting real estate appointments from his calendar.
Picthall is an employee of the Harrelson Group and was still listed on the employee webpage Wednesday morning. He is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.
In the filing, Century 21 The Harrelson Group, Century 21 Barefoot and Mills sought a temporary injunction against Barber, Varney and eXp Realty to restrain them from profiting from the allegedly stolen information. In addition, plaintiffs also sought monetary violations for eight charges against Barber and the other defendants, including deceptive marketing practices, stolen customers, computer hacking and trespassing.