Feuding Halstead team settles bitter legal dispute

Resolution comes one month after broker's hacking arrest

TRD New York /
Jun.June 25, 2012 02:30 PM

About a month after his arrest on computer-hacking charges, Barak Realty vice president William Vilkelis has dropped a $1 million suit against three former partners on Halstead Property’s Holmes Team, bringing an end to a bitter legal dispute.

The four brokers — Vilkelis, Catherine Holmes and her husband, Tom Holmes, and Jeff Goodman — agreed to team up in 2008. But the relationship quickly deteriorated, and in late 2009, Vilkelis sued the partners, claiming they had improperly booted him from the team. He later added Halstead as a defendant, while the Holmes Team shot back with their own claims that Vilkelis had harmed their business, and requested $1.65 million in damages. 

Today, a New York State Supreme Court judge issued a one-line order that said, “this matter has settled,” although a formal agreement has not yet been filed in court.

According to a source familiar with the case, the Holmeses and Goodman agreed to pay $10,000 to settle the claims. Vilkelis did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday, nor did his attorney, Gale Elston.

Lonica Smith, an attorney with Phillips Nizer who represented the Holmes’ and Goodman, declined to comment, except to say that the dispute “was settled by mutual agreement.”

Goodman also declined to comment, citing a nondisclosure provision in the agreement. Catherine Holmes did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesperson for Halstead declined to comment.

The deal comes about a month after the New York police arrested Vilkelis at an Upper West Side precinct and charged him with a misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of a computer, a police spokesperson confirmed.

The charge was in connection with an October 2010 incident, and a source said that Vilkelis had hacked into Catherine Holmes’ private email account. Vilkelis was scheduled to appear for his arraignment this morning. It was not immediately clear how he pleaded to the charge.

Formed in the fall of 2008 when all four agents were working at Barak, the Holmes Team aimed to generate $1 million in commissions during their first year, which they agreed to split evenly, according to court papers.

Vilkelis’ duties included working on the newsletter, placing advertisements, and contacting potential clients, court papers showed.

Though the team raked in $126,000 in commissions in 2009, according to papers filed in August by the defendants, the relationship between Vilkelis and his partners went downhill. Adding to the disagreement was the fact that the parties had never written down the specifics of their partnership arrangement.

The Holmes team claimed that Vilkelis exhibited an “argumentative and hostile,” attitude and that his problems with clients hurt their business.

A letter from a former client filed in court described one of Vilkelis’ alleged habits: “As showings proceeded, I noticed that Mr. Vilkelis continued his disgusting habit of regularly touching his genitals,” the letter said. “At this point I didn’t know whether it was a medical problem or just a bad habit. I began to worry that this ‘habit’ would hinder the sale of my home during showings or open houses.”

Meanwhile, Vilkelis alleged that the other Holmes Team members “effectively sabotaged” his performance in order to keep his 25 percent cut of the commissions, and convinced his clients to stop working with him.

In one version of the complaint, Vilkelis said that Catherine Holmes had offered him a deal to terminate his partnership interest in the team, which included paying him his percentage of deals under contract and of existing listings. But the offer did not include “any compensation for my year of hard labor” or “the good will I created for the ‘Holmes Team,’” Vilkelis said in the complaint.

At one point, the judge decided the Holmes Team was indeed a partnership, against the assertions of the Holmes’ and Goodman, although the judge dismissed the bulk of Vilkelis’ claims until an accounting of the partnership could be undertaken.

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