Posted by HUSTON HARWOOD and ANNA WILDER of Fresh Take Florida News Service, Fresh Take Florida News Service of the University of Florida
GANESVILLE, Florida (AP) – Employees of a prominent commercial real estate firm in Gainesville, whose offices were stormed by an armed SWAT group this summer, could face felony charges after a criminal investigation said they pulled their former employer out of a hiding place confidential documents and transactions worth millions.
According to sworn complaints filed late Tuesday and early Wednesday in the Alachua County District Court, police detectives charged Colliers International employees Lauren Edwards, 24, Daniel Drotos, 34, and Rory Kozo, 59, of stealing dozens of trade secrets and proprietary documents and $ 2 million. bargains from Bosshardt Realty Services, their former employer.
The Trinity is charged with theft or embezzlement of trade secrets, as well as criminal fraud to deceive and take possession of property. Michael Reals, 65, who is listed as an executive director on the company’s website, is co-accused in the complaints of Edwards and Drotos.
Edwards did not answer her phone call and did not respond to an email regarding the criminal case. The message left to her attorney’s secretary was not returned prior to publication.
Bosshardt Realty and Colliers International, two of the world’s most prominent real estate firms, have been embroiled in a two-year legal dispute over claims that Aaron Bosshardt, head of Bosshardt Realty, withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid commissions owed to Drotos. and Rials.
On June 25, following a highly publicized Special Forces raid, Drotos and Ryals filed a second lawsuit alleging that Bosshardt abused the lawsuit by providing law enforcement with false and defamatory information that interfered with the existing lawsuit and caused emotional distress.
Melissa Redon, chief marketing officer for Bosshardt Realty, said the company found evidence of document theft as it prepared to respond to civil lawsuits from Drotos and Rials that Bosshardt had closed their commission case. She said that Aaron Bosshardt filed a standard report with the police and that local law enforcement did not pay particular attention to him.
“It was difficult not to try not to tell our version of the story, even as part of our brokerage business, to protect our agents and ensure the integrity of the investigation, we were unable to provide any real details,” Redon said.
It is unclear how the recently released criminal charges will impact the civil suits of Drotos and Rials.
A new complaint against Edwards alleges that in January 2019, two months before the group ended their employment contract with Bosshardt, Drotos sent a request to Appfiles, Bosshardt’s file service provider, asking for instructions on how to upload and transfer corporate documents to external hard drive. drive. Appfiles denied Drotos’ request and forwarded it to Bosshardt.
According to detectives, Drotos never received permission from Bosshardt to copy or access the files. A month later, in response to an email from Edwards, investigators say Drotos sent Edwards a list of wanted documents and told her to download them. Authorities say Edwards later moved about 160 internal files from Bosshardt’s file server to her personal Gmail account.
Christian Oldenburg, chief executive of Colliers, also instructed Edwards to email him the documents so that he could distribute them to the rest of the group, the court transcript said. Oldenburg did not appear as a defendant in any of the open cases. He did not return phone calls on Wednesday regarding the criminal case.
In October 2020, detectives received a search warrant from Edwards’ email and found that she later sent the same files to Drotos, Rials and other members of the Drotos-Reals group at Colliers International.
The documents found during the search included contracts, commissions, financial statements, legal information, listings and detailed lists of sellers and potential buyers.
Investigators said the documents would give Drotos and Rials an unfair business advantage.
Lawyer Ron Kozlowski, representing Drotos and Ryals, said he believed in the investigation process but disputed the belief that his clients had stolen trade secrets.
“This is a commercial property,” said Kozlowski. “In my experience, I don’t even know what a commercial secret is in terms of commercial real estate, based on the facts we have. There were no trade secrets that Mr. Riles and Mr. Drotos could take with them from Bosshardt. “
Bosshardt says he has so far remained silent about the situation with his former employees to defend the investigation.
“We waited patiently for the truth to come out,” said Aaron Bosshardt. “We are grateful for the time and energy that was spent on this matter. All this was not easy, but we hope that the conclusion is close and justice will prevail. “
A timeline has yet to be set, and Gainesville police have turned them over to the state attorney’s office, which will next decide whether to pursue their case.
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