UPDATED, 5:51 p.m., June 23: In brokerage, reputation is everything. It’s not unusual for dealmakers to speak only in well-rehearsed sound bites and ferociously guard themselves against negative publicity.
But in an incident involving Skyline Properties’ Robert Khodadadian, the effort to guard against bad press has taken a dramatic — and potentially illegal — turn.
The incident involves a document that was sent to The Real Deal last week requesting the removal of articles on Khodadadian, a successful New York City-based investment sales broker. Upon examination, the document was revealed to be bogus, and the judge whose name was forged in it said it is a serious matter, which the court will investigate. Meanwhile, Khodadadian denies any involvement with the document.
On June 2, Scott Molloy, a marketing professional, sent an email to TRD identifying himself as working with Khodadadian. Molloy requested the removal of three TRD articles chronicling a dispute between Khodadadian and Eastern Consolidated, his former firm. The stories in question are from the second half of 2013 and late 2014.
Khodadadian wanted TRD to remove stories that reported on a dispute between him and Eastern Consolidated, a brokerage that sued him for allegedly sending a sexually explicit video to an intern while he was a broker at Eastern. Khodadadian, who relaunched his firm Skyline Properties in May 2013, has denied that he ever sent the video.
(Eastern’s suit came on the heels of one Khodadadian filed against it alleging nonpayment of commissions. Both suits were settled in late 2014.)
The content of the TRD articles, Molloy claimed, “violates the rulings of a court decision.” He sent TRD the document to support his request.
TRD asked Khodadadian to confirm if he authorized Molloy to send the document. Molloy repeated the request to Khodadadian in a separate email — which did not contain the document — and Khodadadian simply replied: “confirmed.” The broker said he assumed the document was simply a written request for removal, and did not review it.
The document seemed suspect for several reasons: it was full of spelling and grammatical errors; had a filing date before the date of signing (the date of signing should come before the filing date); and perhaps most conspicuously, contained an “APPROVED” stamp, which TRD had never come across in reviewing hundreds of court documents.
TRD sent the document to independent legal experts, who concluded that it was bogus, and then forwarded it to State Supreme Court Justice Timothy Driscoll, whose signature appears several times on the document.
In a statement, David Bookstaver, a spokesperson for the court, told TRD that Driscoll was “deeply concerned that this happened,” and said the case was being referred to the court’s Inspector General’s office.
“Forging a judge’s signature is a felony,” Bookstaver added.
In a statement Thursday, Khodadadian denied any involvement with sending the forged document.
“I have no knowledge of this doc,” he said. He added, in an apparent attempt to plug his business, that “the market is on fire so if there are any property owners in Manhattan looking to sell you know where to reach me.”
Mainstreethost, the Buffalo area-based marketing agency which Molloy works for, did not disclose where the document came from and denied creating it.
“Mainstreethost nor any of its employees have created or falsified this nor any other court orders or documents,” the company said in a statement. This, however, isn’t the first incident it has been involved in: in 2013, the agency reached an agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to stop writing fake reviews on sites such as Yelp and Google. As part of the agreement, Mainstreethost had to pay a $43,000 fine.
This extreme attempt to remove a negative story illustrates, of course, the importance placed on online presence in the digital age.
“Stories and statements live forever online and they are easier to find than old newspaper clippings on microfiche in a library archive,” said Roxanne Donovan, president of public relations firms Great Ink Communications. “They are immediate and powerful. People must be vigilant in monitoring what’s written about them online.”
The article about the settlement between the broker and Eastern is one of the very first search results when doing a Google search for Khodadadian’s name.
Khodadadian brokered over $100 million in closed sales in 2014, according to a TRD analysis of deals. One former coworker credited that to the broker’s work ethic.
“He’s great at canvassing,” the source said.