“Wolf of Airbnb” charged over short-term rental scheme
NY prosecutors allege Konrad Bicher defrauded landlords with illegal listings
The days of the “Wolf of Airbnb” hounding landlords across the city may be over.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged Konrad Bicher with wire fraud and identity theft, Bloomberg reported. Attorneys for Bicher said he will plead not guilty to the charges.
Bicher, 31, signed leases with landlords and put units on Airbnb’s website against the law, prosecutors said. The scheme ran from 2019 to this year, with Bicher signing at least 18 leases and collecting $1.2 million in income while dodging more than $1 million in rent payments.
Prosecutors also allege companies owned by Bicher received $565,000 in loans from the pandemic-era Paycheck Protection Program. The applications for those loans allegedly contained false information.
The Florida man was arrested in June.
Several landlords raised issue with Bicher earlier this year, accusing him of skipping rent and claiming pandemic-related hardships to gain an upper hand against property owners, aware of court backlogs and eviction bans. Bicher previously denied running illegal short-term rentals, according to court records.
Most of Bicher’s rentals are in Upper Manhattan, though there are some in Hell’s Kitchen and on the West Side. Where Bicher resides is a more closely guarded secret and two lawsuits were thrown out because process servers couldn’t find him.
In March, Related Companies alleged Bicher was running a short-term rental in its luxury MiMa tower in Hell’s Kitchen. Bicher denied any involvement with the alleged rental.
Bicher previously told The Real Deal that his self-anointed “Wolf of Airbnb” moniker “means someone who is hungry and ruthless enough to get on top of the financial ladder.”
New York banned short-term rentals without a present owner or regular tenant present in 2011, making it illegal to rent out a full apartment for fewer than 30 days. In 2016, the state also banned the advertising of illegal short-term rentals. Enforcement of the laws has been difficult, though, and focuses largely on landlords, rather than tenants sometimes orchestrating the listings.
Last month, the Brodsky Organization filed a case against the city and its enforcement of the short-term rental law, tired of being held accountable for the alleged action of tenants. The suit calls on a state court to review the city law.
— Holden Walter-Warner
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