KB Home, one of the nation's largest home builders, says it is suing some of its homeowners in federal court.
The builder says five current or former homeowners in the Willowbrook condominium community in Bradenton tried to disparage the company's reputation by either running a website to publicly slam the company for construction flaws or by hacking into emails between the builder and a contractor hired to repair Willowbrook.
RELATED STORY 1/22/2013: KB Home repairs to Willowbrook condos underway; residents not impressed
KB alleges two homeowners used the website in an effort to coerce the builder into buying back their condos.
KB has been under fire from customers for more than a year, amid an 8-on-your-side investigation into shoddy construction at the Willowbrook Condominiums. News Channel 8 uncovered serious construction flaws that led to mold and leaks and balconies that fell apart.
Residents, upset that the builder failed to properly fix their homes, fought back, and now, after extreme public pressure, KB is actively working to repair the houses. KB says it has spent millions already. The company is tearing out moldy wood and rebuilding the condos.
RELATED STORY 2/1/2014: Troubled KB home owners in Bradenton find support in senator
KB supplied News Channel 8 with a copy of the lawsuit and attorney Thomas Dye, with the firm Carlton Fields, said he mailed the suit to court on Friday, but it has not yet showed up in public records because of a court backlog.
Named in the suit are: Andrew Smith, Daniel Koehler, Patrick McGettigan, William Crimson and Armando Oyola-Delgado.
At the center of the suit, is a website, principally run by Smith. The site, www.thekbhome.com, lists news stories about construction problems at Willowbrook and other KB communities around Florida and the nation. The site has links to Florida's Attorney General website and other sites where homeowners can file complaints. Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has an on-going criminal investigation into KB Home.
Smith also created other websites, such as www.kbhomewillowbrook.com; kbhsucks.com and kb-home-lawsuits.com.
The suit also alleges some of the defendants illegally obtained copies of emails between KB Home and Dueall Construction, hired to repair WillowbrookCrimsonon, an information technology professional, instructed some of the other defendants on how to "intercept emails to and from the Dueall computers by hacking into and gaining access to the Wifi Hotspot," according to the suit.
Crimson, reached by phone, says this is not true. He says he sold his Willowbrook condo this year, and has moved on.
Smith, who runs the websites, says he has done noting wrong and has no plans to remove his site.
RELATED STORY 5/1/2013: KB Home files lawsuit against 41 subcontractors
Tuesday afternoon, KB Home sent News Channel 8 this response, “KB Home has brought this suit to defend itself against computer hacking and improper infringement of its trademark. We have been working diligently and at great expense to address warranty requests of our homeowners in the Bradenton Area. In this process we have accepted fair criticism and we will continue to do so. The hacking and other conduct described in this suit is illegal and we intend to hold the responsible individuals accountable for their behavior to the fullest extent of the law.”
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