$35 Million Wasn’t Enough, Job Site Says

     HOUSTON (CN) — A networking website for oil workers claims in court that a Texan stole more than 700,000 resumes from it and used them to launch a competing business he offered to sell back for $20 million.
     Rigzone.com says on its website that it has resumes of more than 2 million oil and gas workers in its database. Workers post their resumes for free, but recruiters pay for access, starting at $550 per month.
     Rigzone and its parent company DHI Group fka Dice Holdings sued David W. Kent Jr. and his company Single Integrated Operations Portal dba Oilpro dba Oilpro.com on June 10 in Federal Court.
     Kent is facing federal criminal charges in New York, accused of conspiracy and wire fraud: hacking into Rigzone’s website from October 2013 to February this year. He posted a $25,000 bond after federal agents arrested him on March 30 in Spring, a Houston suburb.
     Kent founded Rigzone in March 2000 and sold it to New York City-based DHI Group for $51 million in August 2010 and agreed to stay on as Rigzone’s president under a consulting agreement, according to records in the criminal case.
     “David Kent owned approximately 70 percent of Rigzone and therefore received over $35 million by selling Rigzone, its website, and its assets — including its database of member resumes, profiles, and other confidential information — to DHI Group,” the company says in its civil complaint.
     But Kent was not content with $35 million, DHI Group says. Before his consulting agreement ended in January 2012, he set up a secret “backdoor entry” into Rigzone’s computer system and downloaded Rigzone’s “entire website” onto an external drive that disappeared when he left Rigzone, according to the complaint.
     Kent spent 2013 setting up the competing job networking site Oilpro.com and displayed a countdown timer on the site, which launched the minute his non-compete agreement with Rigzone expired on Oct. 1, 2013.
     Kent persuaded his “core team from Rigzone” including his brother, defendant Matthew Kent, Rigzone’s vice president of sales, to follow him to Oilpro and gave them a stake in the startup, according to the complaint.
     From the start, Kent solicited DHI Group to buy Oilpro, looking to repeat on his sale of Rigzone to the company, DHI Group says.
     “On or about April 24, 2014, David Kent wrote to the CEO of DHI Group and stated: ‘My original mission was to build something that [DHI Group] would be interested in acquiring. It seemed to work for all parties before,” the lawsuit states. (Brackets in complaint.)
     Oilpro.com took off, amassing 500,000 members by January 2016, which caught the attention of DHI Group executives, who entered into talks with Kent about buying his company. Kent implied it was worth $20 million, according to the complaint.
     Kent went to New York City to meet with DHI Group executives on Jan. 20 and told tales about LinkedIn’s integral role in his company’s dramatic growth, DHI Group says.
     LinkedIn is the most popular U.S. job networking site. Microsoft announced Monday it will buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. The deal is expected to close by Dec. 31.
     “Kent stated that the ‘main mission’ for Oilpro employees at the outset was calling friends and asking them to upload their contacts from LinkedIn,” the complaint states.
     “Oilpro would then send emails to these LinkedIn contacts, invite them to join Oilpro, and then invite them to upload their contacts from LinkedIn. David Kent stated that this ‘network effects’ strategy was the ‘core way’ and ‘enough’ to grow Oilpro to over 500,000 members in a short period of time.”
     Oilpro’s rise was interrupted on March 30 when FBI agents arrested Kent in Texas and he was charged in New York City with crimes that could send him to prison for up to 25 years.
     His bond required him to give up his U.S. passport and permits him to travel only from Texas to New York and “points in between.”
     “Defendant is to have no contact with former or present employees of Oil Pro except that defendant may communicate with his brother Matthew Kent concerning matters not involving this case or Oil Pro,” the bond document states.
     DHI Group and Rigzone seek punitive damages for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Stored Wire and Electronic Communications and Transactional Records Access Act, RICO Act, Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Texas Harmful Access by Computer Act and the Texas Theft Liability Act.
     They also sued Kent for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, unfair competition, tortious interference, conspiracy, and aiding and abetting. They seek an injunction ordering Kent to delete all data taken from Rigzone.com and to stop him from contacting its employees.
     Defendants include these former Rigzone employees who defected to Oilpro: Estevan Dufrin, Matthew Kent, Bryan Robins and Jeremy Antonini.
     “Defendants John Doe Nos. 1-10 are as yet unnamed Oilpro employees, contractors, agents, and/or investors who participated and acted in concert with Oilpro, David Kent, Dufrin, Matthew Kent, Robins, and Antonini in their scheme,” the 57-page complaint states.
     Rigzone and DHI Group are represented by Kevin Jacobs with Baker Botts in Houston.

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