The ‘Airbnb Con Artist’ Pleads Guilty to $2 Million Fraud Scheme

**Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud Charge in “Wolf of Airbnb” Scheme**

A Florida man, Konrad Bicher, has pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge, admitting to illegally obtaining approximately $2 million by defrauding landlords and manipulating a government pandemic program. The plea was entered in a Manhattan federal court, with Bicher agreeing not to appeal any prison sentence of approximately four to five years. The potential sentence for the wire fraud charge alone was 20 years. As part of the agreement, Bicher also agreed to forfeit $1.7 million and make restitution of $1.9 million. A date for sentencing has yet to be set.

**Bicher’s “Wolf of Airbnb” Scheme**

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated that Bicher proudly referred to himself as the “Wolf of Airbnb,” but he ultimately admitted that his businesses were built on fraud. Bicher entered lease agreements based on false pretenses and made false statements in order to secure U.S.-guaranteed loans. Williams expressed that Bicher had taken advantage of government programs and tenant protections that were meant to provide assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bicher’s actions demonstrated a complete disregard for those in crisis.

**Operating “Mini-Hotels” in Manhattan During the Pandemic**

When Bicher was indicted in October, it was revealed that he had been operating at least 18 apartments in Manhattan as makeshift hotels, all while using the pandemic as an excuse to evade rent payments. Bicher took advantage of the chaotic conditions caused by the pandemic and exploited the leniency shown toward tenants. His actions not only defrauded landlords, but also prevented others from accessing housing during a time of great need.

**The “Wolf of Airbnb” Persona**

Bicher’s self-proclaimed title, the “Wolf of Airbnb,” drew inspiration from “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the memoir of former stockbroker Jordan Belfort. The parallel between Bicher’s fraudulent activities and Belfort’s financial crimes is evident. Belfort’s story exemplifies how ill-gotten gains can lead to a life of excess and recklessness, ultimately resulting in legal consequences.

**Bicher’s Fraudulent Activities**

According to court documents, Bicher initiated his fraudulent activities in February 2019 by renting apartments in Manhattan and then subletting them to third parties on a short-term basis, despite clear clauses in the lease agreements prohibiting such actions. He failed to make the required rent payments and refused to vacate the apartments after the lease agreements expired. As a result, Bicher and his associates avoided paying over $1 million in lease payments between July 2019 and April 2022, while earning at least $1.17 million in rental income through their own short-term rentals.

**Exploiting Government Programs**

In addition to defrauding landlords, Bicher also took advantage of government relief programs intended to provide support to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April and July 2021, he used fraudulent information to obtain over half a million dollars in government-guaranteed loans through a program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. This further demonstrates Bicher’s willingness to manipulate any system for his own financial gain.

**Moving Forward**

After pleading guilty, Bicher expressed that he has an intriguing story to tell, but it seems that he is not ready to share it just yet. As the legal process proceeds, it is crucial that those affected by Bicher’s actions receive the restitution they deserve. Additionally, steps should be taken to prevent similar schemes in the future, ensuring the integrity of government programs and protecting both tenants and landlords from fraudulent activities.

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