In a case that illustrates the combative world of real estate influencers and the dangers of chasing online stardom, an agent with a large social media following is now facing criminal charges for a stunt that involved dressing up like an elf and allegedly running through the office of a prominent real estate investor.
Kevin Paffrath, better known as Meet Kevin on YouTube and Instagram, was charged in February with trespassing and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. The charges stem from a Dec. 21 incident in which Paffrath, who is based in the Los Angeles area, flew to Miami and showed up at the offices of Grant Cardone, a real estate investor and speaker who describes himself as the “number one sales trainer in the world.”
Paffrath, and a group of people he was leading, showed up at Cardone’s office dressed as Christmas elves. Video of the incident shows Paffrath pulling a wagon into the office and handing out poinsettia plants to workers, whose responses initially appeared to range from happiness to confusion.
The video also shows a security guard stepping between the elfin-attired group and most of the cubicles in the building. The guard gradually ushers the group toward the door and they leave. A police report, citing videos provided by Cardone’s attorney, states that after leaving Paffrath passed out picket signs, after which he and his group began banging on the building’s windows.
A second video reviewed by Inman shows Paffrath later running back into the building with a bullhorn as people inside try to shut the door and seemingly gesture for him and his group to leave. The police report states that Paffrath ran for “approximately 100 feet while loudly screaming” until a security guard subdued him.
Yet another video shows Paffrath standing outside the building handcuffed with a group of police. The videos are hosted on Paffrath’s YouTube channel but are unlisted, meaning they don’t show up on his user page or in searches. Paffrath’s attorney Joseph DeMaria provided Inman with links to the videos.
The police report states that Paffrath and the people who accompanied him were not arrested and ultimately “left without incident.” Paffrath’s two charges weren’t filed until nearly two months later, on Feb. 14, and are still unresolved. The first hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.
The maximum sentences for trespassing and disorderly conduct are one year in jail and 60 days in jail, respectively (though some sort of significantly less severe penalty is a far likelier outcome for the case).
Cardone’s attorney declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing criminal proceedings. However, in a deposition — which Paffrath’s attorney provided to Inman — Cardone stated that “a lot of time, effort and money was employed to carry out this prank.”
“He was recognized by some of the staff as he is [a] known trouble maker and stalker,” Cardone said.
Cardone’s comment about Paffrath being a “stalker” alludes to a feud between the two men, which culminated with the December stunt. After the stunt, Cardone ultimately tried to get a stalking injunction against Paffrath. However Cardone’s attorneys voluntarily dismissed that case in February, prompting Paffrath to publicly declare victory on Instagram and YouTube. (Those declarations prompted some criticism from commenters who pointed to the still-ongoing misdemeanor case.)
The feud between the two men goes back more than a year and appears to have begun when Paffrath began criticizing Cardone’s business strategies in a series of YouTube videos. One video posted in January 2018, for example, is titled “Forget Grant Cardone.”
Another video, posted in March 2018 and titled “Grant Cardone & Cardone Capital Exposed,” racked up more than half a million views. Yet another video, posted in September, shows Paffrath riding a bike while someone in a Cardone mask tries to run over him with a van before kidnapping him and saying, “come on you little bitch, wake up.”
In total, by the beginning of this month, there were at least 17 publicly listed videos on Paffrath’s YouTube page that mention Cardone in their titles. Others, such as a video posted on Friday about investing in real estate, discuss other topics but nevertheless include passing criticisms of Cardone.
In addition, Paffrath has also on multiple occasions called into an online show Cardone hosts, DeMaria said. In video of the calls, reviewed by Inman, Paffrath can be heard asking Cardone about real estate investment strategies.
Cardone and Paffrath further interacted at a Los Angeles event in September. Cardone was there as a speaker, and in his deposition claimed Paffrath showed up without a ticket and proceeded to “stalk” him. Cardone described Paffrath as looking “strung out” and said the agent was “publicly ‘hating’ Grant Cardone in order to gain fame.”
DeMaria confirmed that Paffrath did go to the event, but said that the two men merely had a conversation and that no stalking took place. He also filed a court document arguing that Paffrath is merely a critic of Cardone’s business practices, not a stalker, and also actually the subject of legal intimidation.
“He’s trying to squash this little guy, Kevin, by using this legal process,” DeMaria told Inman, referring to Cardone’s attempt to get a stalking injunction. “Why is he so upset [with what] this little punk from California is saying about him?”
Ultimately, DeMaria said that Paffrath made his repeated criticisms because “he doesn’t believe Cardone’s system is a good system.” A main point of the criticism appears to be that Cardone steers investors away from smaller and more accessible deals, which Paffrath favors, and instead recommends investing in companies such as his own that have significant scale.
Either way though, Paffrath does appear to have hit upon an enduring truth in the age of the internet: Picking a fight with someone bigger than you generally tends to raise your own star. And of course, the more controversy you drum up, the more famous you become.
That’s a strategy Paffrath — with about 90,000 YouTube subscribers — has used repeatedly. Though Cardone (nearly a million YouTube subscribers) appears to be his most frequent target, Paffrath has repeatedly criticized speaker Gary Vaynerchuk (nearly 2 million subscribers) as well as radio personality Dave Ramsey (nearly a million subscribers).
Many of Paffrath’s non-critical videos have fewer than 20,000 views. But, tellingly, a number of his videos on Cardone have racked up many times those numbers, in some cases reaching into the hundreds of thousands of views. And that means a larger audience to whom Paffrath can sell his own classes and training courses, some of which were explicitly created in response to the programs Cardone sells.
DeMaria described Paffrath’s strategy of going after Cardone as “marketing plain and simple,” adding that “I don’t have a problem with somebody saying it’s an attention grabber.” And he was frank about the tactic serving duel roles, at once offering criticism while also “getting the name out there and getting people to pay attention to you.” DeMaria compared the tactics to the paparazzi.
“It’s a social media tactic to get people’s attention, yes,” DeMaria said. “If you find somebody who is in the public eye, then there’s money to be made.”
Asked if Paffrath might change his social media practices after the ordeal in December, DeMaria was unsure but also believes that going after Cardone is “just not worth it.” However, he also argued that the only legal mistake Paffrath made was going back into Cardone’s office after being asked to leave.
“The one thing Kevin did wrong,” DeMaria said, “is he shouldn’t have gone back in the second time.”