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‘Wolf Of Airbnb’ Charged With Fraud Over Alleged $1.1M Criminal Rental Venture

Airbnb listings in New York City

A Florida man who allegedly listed scores of illegal short-term rentals in New York City on Airbnb, dodged rent payments to landlords and improperly took pandemic assistance funding has been charged with wire fraud and identity theft.

Federal prosecutors accuse Konrad Bicher of leasing long-term rental units, then listing them illegally on Airbnb while skipping out on more than $1M in rent he owed landlords, Bloomberg reports. He signed at least 18 leases between 2019 and 2022 and earned some $1.2M in income from them, according to court filings.

Bicher, who has pleaded not guilty, used the name “Wolf of Airbnb” as a reference to being “hungry and ruthless enough to get on top of the financial ladder,” per prosecutors. They also claim he provided false information to score $565K in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

New York City had as many as 20,000 residential units available for short-term rentals on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, Curbed reported in May, while residential units available totaled fewer than 8,000.

Airbnb has long been accused of worsening housing crises in cities all over the world, as landlords seek to opt for profits via short-term rentals over providing long-term housing. New York City has spent years trying to regulate the industry, and last year the city council passed measures requiring Airbnb and similar sites to share listing data and host information with the city.

Meanwhile, rents have risen exponentially in the last year. The net effective median rental price in Manhattan was $3,982 in September, per data from appraisal firm Miller Samuel, a nearly 24% increase from September 2021.

"This type of activity has no place on our platform, and we previously banned this Host from Airbnb," a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. "We sought to cooperate fully with the FBI as part of its investigation."

UPDATE, OCT. 31, 11 A.M. ET: This story has been updated to include a response from Airbnb.