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Jeremy Sparig v. Kerry Danenberg

June 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge:


Plaintiff Jeremy Sparig commenced this pro se action on October 24, 2011, alleging a variety of claims arising from his former relationship with Select Real Estate, LLC ("SRE"), a real estate brokerage based in Brooklyn, New York. Sparig has asserted federal claims against SRE, its principals and related companies for copyright infringement, as well as violations of § 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. He has also asserted various claims under state law. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.


A. Factual Background

Sparig began working as a real estate salesperson for SRE, a real estate brokerage, in April 2008. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 27, 29, ECF No. 3.*fn1 He worked for SRE as an independent contractor, paid by commission. Id. ¶¶ 29, 31. When he accepted a position with SRE, Sparig signed a non-compete agreement. See id. ¶ 32. This agreement broadly prohibits Sparig from being involved with another real estate brokerage within five miles of SRE's office for a period of three years. See id.

When Sparig interviewed for the position with SRE, Danenberg told him that he would be provided with "expert training by a senior expert Broker." Id. ¶ 39(i). He would work with this senior broker on his first four transactions and they would split both the work and the commissions. Id. ¶ 39(v). He was told commissions would be paid one week after a lease was signed. Id. ¶ 39(iii). Danenberg also told Sparig about DANBRO studios, a property owned by Danenberg and his brother. Id. ¶ 39(vi). Danenberg told Sparig he would receive a commission of one month's rent for each unit he was able to lease at DANBRO studios. Id. ¶ 39(vii). Based on these and other statements by Danenberg, Sparig agreed to work for SRE and to sign the non-compete agreement. Id. ¶ 40.

Despite the promise of being paired with a senior broker, when Sparig began working at SRE he was actually paired with the next-most-junior broker. Id. ¶ 41. Sparig completed his first transactions alone, without training or assistance from that junior broker or others, but still had half of his commissions taken away. See id. ¶¶ 42--43. In addition, Sparig alleges that for each month he worked at SRE, his commissions were not paid on time and he did not receive the full amount of commissions he had earned. See, e.g., ¶¶ 47, 59, 72.

In October 2008, Sparig terminated his relationship with SRE. Id. ¶ 84. He told Danenberg that he intended to go into the real estate business with his father. See id. In response, Danenberg threatened to enforce the non-compete agreement and commence litigation against Sparig that he would seek to make as lengthy and expensive as possible, causing financial ruin to Sparig and his father. See id. ¶ 85. SRE subsequently sent cease and desist notices to Sparig, demanding that he refrain from violating the non-compete agreement. See, e.g., id. ¶ 137.

Danenberg also told Sparig that any judgment against SRE would be unenforceable because SRE has no assets and all its money is funneled into various other companies. Id. ¶¶ 85, 138. Danenberg refused to allow Sparig to take some of his personal belongings as well as records he was required to maintain under New York law regulating real estate salespersons. See id. ¶¶ 89, 134, 160. After Sparig resigned, Danenberg instructed SRE employees to call Sparig's former clients and inform them that Sparig had been fired and that they should not work with him. See id. ¶¶ 88, 122. In addition, SRE failed to provide Sparig with forms documenting his experience as a salesperson there, which he needed in order to become a licensed real estate broker. See id. ¶¶ 102, 154, 159.

Danenberg's conduct prevented Sparig from entering into a real estate business on his own or with his father. See id. ¶¶ 84--85, 123--24, 151. In particular, Sparig was unable to work with the landlord of 476 Jefferson Street, with whom he had obtained an exclusive listing agreement during his time at SRE. See id. ¶¶ 54, 76. Although the landlord had been willing to continue to work with Sparig after he left SRE, Danenberg's conduct prevented him from doing so. See id. ¶¶ 76, 122, 150. Sparig also had to turn down another offer to be an exclusive listing agent for a commercial property. Id. ¶ 155. And the failure to provide Sparig with documentation of his work "made it impossible for [him] to expand his business and hire other agents." Id. ¶ 154.

Prior to working at SRE, Sparig had worked as a professional photographer. Id.

¶ 28. Although he had asked SRE to hire him as a photographer, SRE declined to do so. See id.

¶ 30. Sparig nevertheless employed his photography skills and equipment in his real estate work at SRE. See id. ¶ 90. After he left SRE, SRE continued to use Sparig's photographs to market properties on its website. See id. ¶¶ 90, 93, 96, 98. Sparig's attorney sent a letter to SRE demanding that it cease and desist from using Sparig's photographs. See id.¶ 101. SRE refused and continued to use the photographs. See id. ¶¶ 102--03.

B. Procedural Background

Sparig commenced this action on October 24, 2011, and filed an amended

complaint on November 9, 2011. He named as Defendants both SRE and Danenberg, as well as Sarah Russell,*fn2 Danenberg's wife and a broker at SRE. He also named DANBRO Studios, Dusty Group, LLC, Piggyback, Inc., 31 Bushwick Corp. and other ...

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