Federal prosecutors in New York charged a Florida man who called himself the “Wolf of Airbnb” with wire fraud and identity theft, alleging he took advantage of a Covid-19-era relief program and defrauded landlords by listing apartments illegally on the home-rental platform.
Konrad Bicher, 31, and those working with him entered into leases with landlords and broke rules forbidding rentals on Airbnb Inc.’s website, prosecutors in New York alleged. Bicher was arrested in June and charged Thursday. Prosecutors say that from 2019 to this year, Bicher signed at least 18 leases and failed to pay more than $1 million in rent while reaping close to $1.2 million in income from the rentals.
Attorneys for Bicher said he plans to plead not guilty.
The indictment follows actions from New York City regulators seeking to rein in illlegal rentals. In July, the city sued the owners of a building, and will implement stricter rules next year that will block Airbnb and others from processing payments of unregistered properties. The housing market in New York has grown tighter in recent years, and by one measure, the number of short-term rentals outpaced the supply of available apartments.
Bicher used the name “Wolf of Airbnb” as a reference to being “hungry and ruthless enough to get on top of the financial ladder,” according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege companies owned by Bicher received $565,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans, the applications for which contained false information.
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