fbpx

Prominent real estate agents arrested on charges of racketeering, fraud, and theft of trade secrets

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Local commercial real estate agents Daniel James Drotos, 34, and Michael Steven Ryals, 65, were arrested late last night on charges of fraud, racketeering, and theft of trade secrets and intellectual property.

The criminal case goes back to a sworn complaint filed on August 19, 2021, that laid out probable cause against four former Bosshardt Realty Employees: Drotos, Ryals, Lauren Edwards, and Rory Causseaux; and Colliers International employee Christian Oldenburg, all of whom were working for Colliers International at the time of the sworn complaint. The sworn complaint alleges that on March 4, 2019, Drotos, Ryals, Edwards, and Causseaux (also known as Drotos Ryals Group) terminated their employment with Bosshardt Realty; the complaint says that “before resigning on March 4” (but without a specific date), the four joined Colliers International.

Probable cause for Lauren Edwards

The complaint then states that between February 11 and February 27 of 2019, Edwards accessed Bosshardt’s file-sharing system Appfiles and downloaded approximately 160 files without permission. Edwards had previously signed agreements stating that she could not disclose Bosshardt’s information to any party outside the company without written permission. Edwards then allegedly sent the files to her personal email address from her Bosshardt (teamryals.com) email address. The complaint states that the files contained “commercial real estate buyers, contracts, commission sheets, financial information, legal information, listings, prospect lists, and lists of sellers, all of which would provide the possessor with a business advantage.”

Gainesville Police Department (GPD) investigators obtained a search warrant on March 19, 2021, for the Drotos Ryals Group Appfiles account and reportedly found “multiple trade secrets” taken from Bosshardt and uploaded to the Drotos Ryals Group Appfiles account.

Don't Miss a Post!

No formal charges have been filed by the State Attorney against Edwards.

Probable cause for Daniel Drotos

The sworn complaint says that Drotos sent an email to Appfiles support on January 5, 2019, asking if there was an easy way to download files to an external hard drive. The account he referenced in the email was Bosshardt’s Appfiles account, where he was then an employee. Appfiles support reportedly told him to contact Bosshardt with the request. The sworn complaint then repeats the assertion from above that “multiple trade secrets” were taken from Bosshardt and uploaded to the Drotos Ryals Group Appfiles account but does not have any specific information on Drotos’ role in transferring the files.

Probable cause for Edwards, Oldenburg, Drotos, and Ryals

The complaint says that search warrants were obtained on October 6, 2020, for Edwards’ personal email account for two periods during 2019. On February 13, 2019, Edwards allegedly sent Oldenburg (Colliers Executive Managing Director) an email saying she “wanted to go ahead and get in touch with them to provide our active listings… for the transition.” In the email thread, Oldenburg allegedly told Edwards to “send them to me and I will disseminate them.”

In the same thread, Drotos allegedly instructed Edwards to send Oldenburg the public links to his active listings and added, “some properties have ‘Document Vaults’ that are password protected, backed up on a hard drive that we will need to get you… [to] upload to whatever file system we will be using for [Colliers International].” Edwards then sent the public links from Bosshardt’s web site for 42 commercial real estate listings to Oldenburg, Causseaux, Drotos, and Ryals.

The sworn complaint states that Bosshardt took measures to protect its information by password-protecting it and limiting access to authorized users, but the five people named in the complaint shared trade secrets belonging to Bosshardt by email. It alleges that Edwards unlawfully accessed and shared trade secrets belonging to Bosshardt and that Drotos did the same and also directed Edwards to do the same. It alleges that Oldenburg directed Edwards to use email to send trade secrets to all of the other people named in the complaint. It finally alleges that all five “used electronic means to defraud Bosshardt Realty out of two million dollars,” but no support for this valuation is presented in the sworn complaint.

The only specific information about Ryals in the sworn complaint is that he was on the email thread discussing the transfer of active listings from Bosshardt to Colliers.

Bosshardt asks judge to require Drotos and Ryals to be booked into jail

The State Attorney filed charges against Drotos and Ryals on February 1 for racketeering (for allegedly accessing the password-protected files), fraud of $50,000 or more (for allegedly “acting to prevent the signing of a contract in order to have the value of the commission transfer with the Defendant instead of with the current business”), and obtaining and trafficking in a trade secret. Drotos was also charged with stealing trade secrets from a computer or electronic device with intent to defraud.

The defendants’ attorney filed a motion asking the judge to issue a summons to appear in court instead of an arrest warrant, but on February 4, an attorney representing Bosshardt Realty Services filed a motion asking for a warrant for the arrest of Drotos and Ryals so they would have to make a First Appearance “and The Victim may be heard.” The warrant recommended that both be released on their own recognizance, “but this Court has the discretion to set any reasonable bond it deems appropriate.” Drotos was booked at 9:10 p.m. last night, and Ryals was booked at 10:16 p.m.; both were released between 11:30 and 11:40 p.m.

SWAT Raid

GPD’s SWAT team raided the offices of Colliers International on June 2, 2021, when none of the people named in the sworn complaint were present. State Attorney Brian Kramer defended the raid on grounds that it can be dangerous to serve search warrants. Three of the employees who were present sued the City of Gainesville and GPD for the return of their property, GPD agreed to return the property in August, and GPD’s internal investigation into the raid found no violations of their policies.

School board land deal

Drotos and Ryals have also been accused of deliberately increasing the price of a piece of property that was purchased by the school board, allegedly to increase their commission. Bosshardt Realty was selected for a three-year exclusive real estate services contract by Alachua County Public Schools, but that contract was never signed; according to the WUFT article above, this was because Drotos told Aaron Bosshardt that the land deal was dead. Shortly after leaving Bosshardt, Drotos and Ryals asked the school district to award the contract to Colliers International, and that contract was signed in July 2019.

Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

2 Comments