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Two Century 21 franchises sue eXp Realty over allegedly stolen data

Two Myrtle Beach Century 21 franchises have filed a lawsuit against eXp Realty, alleging that eXp Realty agent Joel Barber stole profits and private real estate data during secretive, “unauthorized” late night office visits.

In the lawsuit, which was filed last Wednesday in South Carolina’s Horry County State Court, Century 21 Barefoot Realty and Century 21 the Harrelson Group allege that Barber entered the Harrelson Group offices “unauthorized” six times between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. accessing “password-protected” company computers to steal client data.

According to the legal filings, Barber’s alleged goal 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 filings cite videos of someone, believed to be Barber, entering and exiting the office captured on the Harrelson Group’s Ring Camera System as evidence, the lawsuit says.

Barber had been working for the Harrelson Group on a contract basis since March of 2017. According to Barber’s contract, his responsibilities included selling and listing approved properties in association with the real estate agency. The contract, which was included with the legal filings, also stated that after his termination Barber was not to use any private information or materials he gained or learned of during his time with the company.

Barber’s contract was terminated on Feb. 7, 2021. He has been an agent for eXp since then.

Greg Harrelson, the president of the Harrelson Group, stated 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 was using photos owned by the company in his listings. Mills claimed the same thing occurred with some of his listings.

Barber was found by police on Century 21 property in the early morning hours of Feb. 7, according to the lawsuit. The 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 states that Barber denied the allegations and said that he was simply just looking for “ideas to better improve his ‘team.’” Barber was then escorted off the property by the attending officer and placed on a trespass notice.  

In his affidavit, Harrelson claimed that once Barber was in the office building, Barber had to access a locked office belonging to one of the company’s other real estate agents. Harrelson stated that he believes Barber possible used a “credit card to break the lock.”

The login records of the laptop the information was allegedly stolen from also match with the hours 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 listing and clients Century 21 the Harrelson Group was working on, the lawsuit claims Barber also deleted real estate listing and client record from the company’s system.

After stealing and deleting real estate records the plaintiffs claim that Barber contacted clients belonging to The Harrelson Group and set up listings. This allowed Barber to earn commission that otherwise would have gone to The Harrelson Group.

Mills, of Century 21 Barefoot Realty, made very similar claims in his affidavit. He alleges that Barber went into the office of one of his real estate agents without permission and took private real estate records off of a company computer. Computer login records again show that the computer in question was accessed during the hours matching up with Barber’s alleged visits recorded by the Ring Camera System, the lawsuit claims.

In his affidavit, Mills claimed that Barber emailed “stolen leads” to another competing real estate agent, Ryan Picthall, whom he had allegedly agreed with “to split profits 50/50 commission 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 were redacted so it is impossible to verify if there are the allegedly stolen leads. Like Harrelson, Mills also claims that Barber made alterations to his computer by changing or deleting real estate business appointments from his calendar.

Picthall is an employee of the Harrelson Group and was still listed on the employee webpage as of 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 requested a temporary injunction against Barber, Varney and eXp Realty in order to prevent them from profiting off of the allegedly stolen information. In addition, the plaintiffs have also requested monetary violations for eight accusations against Barber and the other defendants, including deceptive trade practices, the stolen clients, computer hacking and trespassing.

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