“Wolf of Airbnb” pleads guilty in rental scheme
Fraud conviction carries up to a 20-year prison sentence
The self-proclaimed “Wolf of Airbnb” has been hunted down by the feds.
Konrad Bicher, 31, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of wire fraud in connection with a short-term rental scheme, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York announced. The plea comes after federal prosecutors charged Bicher in October, eight months after he was exposed by The Real Deal.
His business model was rudimentary: Collect rent, but do not pay it, federal officials said.
From 2019 to 2022, Bicher and his associates leased apartment units in Manhattan, signing agreements that forbid them from subletting or renting the units to a third party, prosecutors said. Bicher not only did exactly that, but missed rent payments and refused to vacate the units when the leases expired, according to prosecutors.
Meanwhile, he racked up income by putting the units on short-term rental sites, including Airbnb. From about July 2019 to last April, Bicher and associates skipped more than $1 million in rent payments while earning nearly $1.2 million in income from renting out the units, according to prosecutors.
Bicher weaponized Covid-19 protections to avoid being kicked out of the units. He also exploited pandemic-related programs through government loan programs, particularly the Paycheck Protection Program. Bicher submitted at least four applications for PPP loans and obtained more than $565,000 using fraudulent information, such as forged tax documents.
Landlords sounded the alarm on Bicher last year, accusing him of skipping rent and claiming pandemic-related hardship to gain an advantage over property owners. The native of Hialeah, Florida, was arrested last June. New York City landlords had tipped TRD off to his scheme in January.
Bicher told TRD at the time that his Wolf of Airbnb moniker “means someone who is hungry and ruthless enough to get on top of the financial ladder.”
He didn’t quite make it, though. As part of his guilty plea, Bicher is required to forfeit more than $1.7 million and make nearly $2 million in restitution to his victims.
Bicher faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud. A sentencing date has not been set.