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October 1, 2014

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Unflattering Time magazine story puts agent in hot water

Since bragging to magazine about unethical practices she’s off job, under scrutiny

Beyond the Sun

A Las Vegas real estate agent who landed a prominent role in a Time magazine cover story is being scrutinized by state licensing officials because of her comments, has left her employer and is lying low.

The story by Joel Stein in the Aug. 24 issue, “Less Vegas,” is a high-spirited and high-altitude view of the troubles facing Las Vegas, which he calls both “our most American city” and “an entire city of John Dillingers.”

In the story, Brooke Boemio — “a bouncy, sweet, recently remarried 31-year-old mom” — is cast as one of the Dillingers. She helps Stein break into a foreclosed home and brags about helping clients who are underwater on their mortgages buy a second house on the cheap and stop making payments on their first mortgages, pressuring the bank into selling the houses for a loss. Everybody’s doing it, she says in the story. In fact, she said, she did it herself.

Since the story appeared, Boemio and her employer have, in the words of Coldwell Banker Wardley Real Estate President Jeff Sommers, “parted ways.”

Sommers also said his company has conducted an internal investigation and has been unable to find any cases of Boemio engaging in the behavior described in the story. The buy-and-bail tactics described in the story, he said, are serious allegations and “really just in direct opposition to everything in our policies.”

In a further statement released online, Sommers said Boemio told him she had been misquoted and misrepresented by Time.

Boemio did not reply to the Sun’s telephone, text and e-mail messages.

When the story was published, it referenced a video on Time’s Web site titled “Breaking and Entering,” of Stein and Boemio entering an unoccupied home on the west side of town. Since then, the video has been removed from the Web site for what Time spokeswoman Betsy Burton described as “some sensitivity with various issues.”

A Metro Police spokeswoman said Stein’s description of his and Boemio’s entrance into the home appears to meet the definition of misdemeanor trespassing.

Boemio could face further trouble with the agency that licenses Nevada real estate agents.

The Real Estate Division of the Business and Industry Department is “aware of the article and is taking appropriate action,” spokeswoman Elisabeth Daniels wrote in an e-mail. Real estate agents are required to deal fairly with and disclose relevant information to all parties in a transaction and by statute must have “a good reputation for honesty, trustworthiness and integrity.”

Sue Naumann, president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, released a statement Tuesday saying that although Boemio had applied for membership, she is not a member of the association. Officials with the organization said Boemio had not taken its ethics class.

Buy-and-bail real estate purchases may not be as common as it sounds in the Time story.

Darren Welsh, general counsel for Prudential Americana Group, said the practice was common earlier in the recession but is rare these days. Lenders, having been burned by buy-and-bail real estate purchases, are more cautious today and won’t sell a buyer a second home unless the buyer can afford both homes.

“They’re on to it,” Welsh said.

Reporters Brian Wargo and Emily Richmond contributed to this story.

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