“Loup d’Airbnb” in charge of the rental program

A photographic illustration by Konrad Bicher (Twitter/konrad_bicher)

The days of the “Airbnb Wolf” the hunt for owners across town may be over.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged Konrad Bicher with wire fraud and identity theft, Bloomberg reported. Bicher’s attorneys said he would plead not guilty to the charges.

Bicher, 31, signed leases with landlords and put listings on Airbnb’s website against the law, prosecutors said. The program ran from 2019 to this year, with Bicher signing at least 18 leases and raising $1.2 million in revenue while dodging more than $1 million in rent payments.

Prosecutors also allege businesses owned by Bicher received $565,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans during the pandemic. The applications for these loans allegedly contained false information.

The Florida man was arrested in June.

Several landlords raised an issue with Bicher earlier this year, accusing him of skipping rent and citing pandemic-related struggles to get the better of landlords aware of backlogs and eviction bans. Bicher has previously denied making illegal short-term rentals, according to court records.

Most of Bicher’s rentals are in Upper Manhattan, though there are a few in Hell’s Kitchen and on the West Side. Bicher’s whereabouts are a more closely guarded secret and two lawsuits have been dismissed because process servers could not find him.

In March, related companies Presumed Bicher was running a short-term rental in his luxurious MiMa tower in Hell’s Kitchen. Bicher denied any involvement in the alleged hire.

Bicher has already said The real deal that his self-proclaimed “Airbnb Wolf” moniker “means someone hungry and ruthless enough to climb to the top of the financial ladder.”

An Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement regarding the charges: “This type of activity has no place on our platform, and we have previously banned this host from Airbnb. We have sought to cooperate fully with the FBI as part of its investigation.

New York banned short-term rentals without a current landlord or regular tenant present in 2011, making it illegal to rent an entire apartment for less than 30 days. In 2016, the state also banned advertising for illegal short-term rentals. Enforcement has been difficult, however, and largely focuses on landlords, rather than tenants who sometimes orchestrate 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 liable for the alleged actions of tenants. The lawsuit asks a state court to review the city’s law.

—Holden Walter-Warner

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