- A Miami Beach Realtor is currently awaiting trial after allegedly trying to extort $800,000 from two other Realtors he said manipulated Multiple Listing Service data in order to hide their high-end, expiring listings from other real estate professionals, according to the Miami Herald.
- Realtor Kevin Tomlinson claimed he discovered that high-profile Realtors Jill Hertzberg and Jill Eber, known as the Jills, changed MLS listing information at least 51 times so that their expiring listings would not appear on MLS "hot sheets," a common source of leads among brokers and Realtors.
- Tomlinson filed a complaint against the Jills with the Miami Association of Realtors. He later threatened the Jills with public disclosure of the MLS scheme unless they paid him $800,000. Newly released audio files of those conversations have made the scandal even more complicated.
Tomlinson, who police said resisted arrest, is awaiting trial on charges of felony extortion, resisting arrest with violence and attempting to deprive an officer of his weapon. Tomlinson has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Tomlinson’s lawyer, John Bergendahl, insists that the Jills set Tomlinson up to discredit him because he uncovered a "pattern and practice of wrongdoing that stretched over four years," the Herald reported.
The Jills have admitted to hiding MLS listings as Tomlinson described, but said they didn’t realize the consequences of doing so and were just trying to protect their clients from unwanted realtor solicitations.
"When this issue first came to their attention, The Jills responded to the [association] fully and candidly," said Bruce Rubin, the Jills’ spokesperson. "They followed proper procedure as outlined by the Association. They did not expect to be the victims of an extortion attempt. It was, and remains, a shocking and horrible experience."
However, 50 Realtors have signed a petition requesting the Jills be disciplined.
"The Jills broke the rules. They have a near monopoly on the top of the market because they’ve branded themselves so well," Esther Percal, broker at EWM Realty International, told the Herald. "They say they’re the best, and they can bring the best prices, but they don’t have a magic wand. Their listings can expire like everybody else."
The Miami Herald said this case has drawn so much attention because it "scandalized an image-conscious industry."