A man who called himself the “Wolf of Airbnb” was nabbed by federal prosecutors after illegally subletting more than a dozen Manhattan apartments – earning over $1 million in proceeds, all while refusing to pay rent.
On Thursday, authorities said Florida resident Konrad Bicher, 31, couldn’t pay landlords because of the pandemic despite fraudulently obtained over $565,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, the New York Post reports.
Bicher Raked In Over $565K In PPP Funds, $1.1 Million From Units Despite Not Paying Landlords Upwards Of $1 Million In Rent
Bicher listed the units on websites like Airbnb and promoted them as “mini hotels,” according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams.
“Bicher abused Government programs and tenant protections intended to benefit New Yorkers in crisis, and he will have to answer for his conduct,” Williams said in a statement.
Pro Tip: If you are doing business with a guy who calls himself "Wolf of Airbnb," it's not going to end well.
We've all seen the movie. https://t.co/UxjG3G0fnK pic.twitter.com/OvD3ENXE65
— Diligentia Group (@DiligentiaGroup) October 28, 2022
Bicher and several unnamed associates reportedly leased a minimum of 18 properties in Manhattan in February 2019 – listing them a short-term rentals – in direct violation of the contracts and New York City law, prosecutors allege.
Bicher even illegally rented out units to film crews for $97-an-hour, all while blaming the pandemic for not being able to meet the terms of his lease.
When the leases did expire, he would also refuse to leave and even continued subletting the units – all of which was explicitly not allowed per the leases.
“Wolf Of Airbnb” Even Illegally Sublet Units, Even To Film Crews For $97-An-Hour, Prosecutors Claim
Between 2019 and April 2022, he failed to pay upwards of $1 million-worth of rent for the properties, despite earning over $1.1 million in income from subletting the units, according to prosecutors.
City law prohibits offering comparable units for rent for fewer than 30 days – basically the definition of subletting.
“Wolf of Airbnb” charged over short-term rental scheme https://t.co/oLfXuXE4wv pic.twitter.com/FZ2iiioLGs
— LUIS SUÁREZ | NYC Real Estate (@LuisSuarezNY) October 28, 2022
Prosecutors say by spring 2021, Bicher had applied four times for the federal Payment Protection Program (PPP) and fraudulently obtained $565,00 in relief funds.
“Wolf” Led Luxurious Lifestyle, Snapping Pictures Of Him On Private Jets On Social Media
Bicher led a luxurious lifestyle as well, taking private jets and snapping pictures to his social media accounts. He told the Real Deal in February that he came up with the “Wolf of Airbnb” nickname because it means “someone who is hungry and ruthless enough to get on top of the financial ladder.”
“They compare the ferocity to that of a wolf, because wolves are territorial, vicious and show no mercy when provoked,” he told he outlet in a text.
A landlord who filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Bicher claimed he illegally sublet an upmarket unit and 450 W. 42nd Street, a ritzy building with a doorman at the front entrance.
“Wolf of Airbnb” indicted in connection with scheme to defraud New York City landlords and PPP fraudhttps://t.co/5YWwO7DZg9
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) October 27, 2022
It was the doorman who reportedly noticed random people coming and going with suitcases and camera equipment from the unit.
Authorities said Bicher offered the property for $97-per-hour on Peerspace, the Post reports.
“Wolf” Even Asked Landlords To Pay HIM To Leave, “Otherwise (He’d) Litigate And Keep The Unit For Years”
Bicher allegedly even replied to a cease-and-desist notice with “Can we work out a settlement agreement to pay me to leave?” Otherwise, I’ll keep the unit for years and litigate.”
He was charged with two counts of federal wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, and faces up to 42 years in prison if convicted, according to the Post.
One Facebook account appearing to be Bicher’s says his occupation is in real estate, while a second Facebook account says he is a travel agent, both of which listed New York as locations.