How it worked: Inside three ex-brokers’ $21M Airbnb scheme

The ringleaders, Max Beckman, Alon Karasenty and Simon Itah, used to work at Metropolitan Property Group

(Credit: Pixabay)
(Credit: Pixabay)

A former real estate broker the city is suing for running an illegal network of Airbnbs wants to tell his side of the story.

“We’re not criminals,” Max Beckman, an ex-agent at Metropolitan Property Group, told the New York Times. The scheme, which reportedly grossed Beckman and his partners about $21 million, was conceived after the resi game wasn’t working out for him.

Beckman said he rented the first apartment that he then leased out on Airbnb to pay rent and pocket the difference in 2012.

“It took off, and I made more money, and then I got another one,” he recalled, in the interview. “I couldn’t stop.”

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Beckman quit his day job as a broker three years later and convinced two of his fellow brokers, Alon Karasenty and Simon Itah, to join his venture. Together, they went on to rent out more than 100 apartments in 35 buildings and then relisted them on Airbnb to cover their costs and then some.

They also managed a 15-person cleaning team and even had their own interior designer to style the apartments, which could charge Airbnb guests anywhere from $250 to $600 per night. Their top building made them $1.8 million.

Beckman’s team sidestepped New York City’s “One Host, One Home” policy, which says residents can only list one apartment on Airbnb, by creating multiple host accounts using different names and emails.

The scheme ground to a halt in January when the city slammed the ex-brokers, and a handful of their landlords, with a wave of lawsuits in connection with their Airbnb empire. One suit accuses Metropolitan Property Group’s CEO Sami Katri and his wife, Shely, of also being involved, though Beckman claims documents that used the Katris’ name and addresses linked to them were filled out without their knowledge.

Beckman believes a solution for players like him would be to tax Airbnbs like hotels, though he told the Times he plans to move on from Airbnb’s to selling electric scooters. [NYT] — Erin Hudson