Real estate is a game of bravado, especially in Miami Beach, where multimillion-dollar penthouse suites fly off the market every week to a dizzying swarm of overseas investors. Kevin Tomlinson, a 48-year-old with One Sotheby's International Realty, knew how to play that game as well as anyone, bragging on his website that he doesn't "tolerate mediocrity well" and promising "style, substance, results."
But in addition to selling SoBe condos, Tomlinson allegedly decided to go for a big score by trying to extort a pair whose real-estate bona fides need no introduction in Miami: Police say the realtor cooked up a scheme to extort $800,000 from the Jills, arguably the most famed house-selling pair in a city full of property flippers.
When police moved in to arrest him in his South Beach penthouse Saturday, Tomlinson tried to grab one officer's weapon and screamed, "Fuck Jill, fuck the Hertzbergs!" according to cops. His reward for all of that trouble: a gnarly-looking mugshot and charges of extortion and resisting arrest with violence.
Tomlinson, by all accounts, is a well-known realtor in his own right. According to his online resumé, he began selling real estate 15 years ago, moving his way up to One Sotheby's, where he became a vice president in 2010. With a specialty in the luxury market, Tomlinson says he regularly made the interview rounds, appearing in "The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Robb Report, BusinessWeek, Forbes.com, USA Today, and the Huffington Post."
Tomlinson paints himself as a no-nonsense expert who tells clients like it is. "I probably lose as much business as I gain because I tell the truth," he writes online. "It may not be what a client wants to hear initially, but in the end, everyone benefits when a spade is called a spade."
But it was what police say was a dishonest attempt to wrangle hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Jills that landed him in hot water. Tomlinson's scheme started in April, police say, when he filed an ethics complaint against Eber and Hertzberg, two of the top luxury sellers in Miami who are equally well known for appearing on many reality TV and news shows.
Tomlinson, though, claimed the Jills were illegally manipulating an online listings service to play down properties that weren't selling, the Miami Herald reports. Then, on July 16, he set up a meeting with Hertzberg. That's when he made his demand: $250,000 from each Jill or else he'd make his complaint public.
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Tomlinson didn't know it, but Hertzberg went straight to the cops. They set up a sting, with Hertzberg arranging another meeting and bringing a $400,000 check. But Tomlinson upped his demands, telling the star realtor he now wanted $800,000 or he'd make his beef with the pair "front-page news," the Herald reports.
Police moved in to arrest Tomlinson Saturday at his penthouse suite in the Meridian Lofts at Dade Avenue and Meridian Avenue. Tomlinson wasn't happy to see them; police say after yelling expletives and Hertzberg's name, he wrestled with the officers and lunged for one of their weapons. They eventually subdued him and took him to jail.
Tomlinson is now free on $11,000 bond and awaiting trial. He didn't answer New Times' call to his cell phone this morning; we'll update this post if we hear back from him.