Edinburgh’s Airbnb scammer returns and rents ‘small’ twin beds
A convicted fraudster is back in the capital by renting out “tiny two-bedroom apartments” to dozens of guests for exorbitant prices on Airbnb.
The infamous con artist Robert Lee Gavin was permanently blacklisted from Airbnb after it was discovered that he illegally sublet apartments in Edinburgh in 2019.
Originally from Barnsley, the 40-year-old has a history of international fraud and in 2016 it was discovered he had taken over £ 40million from numerous elderly and vulnerable victims in connection with fraud to the investment pursued by the American authorities.
Forbidden to sublet on the vacation rental site, the Edinburgh Evening News can reveal that Mr Gavin and his partner Matthew Gooi continued to rent out properties in the capital using the Portcullis and Crown corporation to protect their identities.
Mr Gavin and Mr Gooi are currently renting out a four bedroom property at 11 Marshall’s Court for £ 3,525 for two nights, claiming to sleep up to 28 people and listed as host Stan.
The crafty couple have previously rented apartments in Brunswick Road, Castle Terrace and The Royal Mile, amassing thousands of pounds on sublets while refusing to pay landlord rent.
The unsuspecting owners of a two-bedroom property in Brunswick Road, which will remain unnamed, fell into the couple’s trap in November 2019.
Mr Gavin contacted the anonymous husband and wife, who work in the town, through the online rental agent OpenRent posing as a member of staff at Portcullis and Crown.
They said: “He came to the apartment and was very nice, talked about his kids and his job, living in Edinburgh.”
The rental agreement stipulated that the apartment would be rented to RBS, City Bank and certain airline guests through the Portcullis and Crown website.
They said, “Mr. Gavin assured us that his customer base was RBS, City Bank and some airlines. He verbally confirmed to us that Airbnb was not something they were interested in.
However, the two-bedroom property that can sleep “no more than four people” has been rented out on Airbnb and Booking.com to groups of 12 for hundreds of pounds a night. Shocked, the couple attempted to contact Mr. Gavin who declined to answer questions about the Airbnb ad but requested a break in rent at the property, which the couple refused.
The couple said: “When we spoke to him on the phone he had a very interesting tactic of talking nonstop so you can’t get a word and then hanging up and emailing you what you have. accepted, as a politician would to avoid answering questions.
That same week, Mr. Gavin stopped paying rent and refused to respond to any form of communication by phone or email.
Having blocked all other methods of contact, the couple visited the property in June 2020 and saw Mr. Gavin sunbathing on the deck.
After ringing the doorbell several times without an answer, the couple decided to call a lawyer because it was clear that they had “lost their apartment to the crook”.
Mr. Gavin and Mr. Gooi finally vacated the property in June 2020, having stopped paying rent in February 2020.
This loss of £ 600 in rent combined with £ 4,000 in legal fees cost the couple a total of £ 10,000.
Distraught with the ordeal they faced, the couple said Mr. Gavin and Mr. Gooi “knew how to make the system work” and that without the help of their lawyer, he would still be “well seated” in their apartment now.
They added: “So far there has been no repercussion for him. His scam is working and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. We know he’s 11 now
Marshall Court and we feel bad enough that the only way to get him out was to allow him to rip someone else off. It’s terrible to think that the mental and financial stress it caused us is now on someone else, because he’s sitting nicely in their apartment waiting for an excuse to stop paying the rent.
“He could find a normal job and live a normal, undisturbed life, but he chose to do it instead.”
When asked why he continues to rent properties on Airbnb after the company confirmed he was permanently banned, Mr Gavin declined to respond to the unpaid rent allegations but insisted there was no wrongdoing.
Robert Lee Gavin said, “This is a genuine and ethical company that adds to all the properties we rent and provides good service.
“The company I work for uses corporate rentals which allow the properties to be used for corporate and short-term accommodation.
The owners are aware of this and agree to these conditions and the use of the property for these purposes.
In a statement, an Airbnb spokesperson said: “We have zero tolerance for violations of our policies and have taken action regarding the account, including suspension of registration, while we investigate the question.”
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