A specialist in Texas was able to salvage a portion of the burned hard drives, Bezek said. On them Hablinski's legal team found incriminating e-mails and "the DNA that came from Hablinski's CAD (computer-aided design) drawings that were traced all the way through to the copycat house drawings."
The jury ultimately found that the "overall composition" of the two houses -- including the placement and size of chimneys, balconies, doors, windows and a series of rear archways -- was almost identical.
The verdict came to about $5.9 million. Under a simple mathematical formula that applied in this case, Hablinski has the right to take the profit from the house that was built from the pilfered plans.
The Beverly Hills house was determined to have a fair market value of $14 million. Once the value of the land, the cost of construction and other costs were subtracted, the "profit" on the house was determined to be about $5 million.
Hablinski also was eligible to receive $380,000 as the value of his plans and $500,000 for damage to his reputation.
Bezek's advice to individuals seeking to build a custom home: "Make sure you're dealing with someone reputable and who is designing a house just for you."
An attorney for the Elihus said the defendants planned to appeal but also were discussing a settlement with Hablinski.
"My clients are disappointed with the jury verdict," said Jim Hicks, the attorney.
"They believe they will prevail on appeal. In the meantime, we're trying to resolve this with plaintiffs."
He declined to comment further, saying he felt constrained by the settlement talks.
About a year ago, Sands and his family happily settled into their Bel-Air home on Moraga Drive.
Still smarting from the copycat experience, Sands said Tuesday that he was contemplating a suit of his own. For his part, Hablinski said he might consider sharing the proceeds of the case with Sands.
"That remains to be seen," he said. "We'd have to see what all the legal particulars are."