“Wolf Of Airbnb” Indicted In Connection With Scheme To Defraud New York City Landlords And PPP Fraud
Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the indictment of KONRAD BICHER for two counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud New York City landlords (the “Rental Property Scheme”) and a scheme to fraudulently obtain over $565,000 in government-guaranteed loans designed to provide relief to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, namely the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). BICHER was arrested in connection with the Rental Property Scheme in late June 2022. The case has been assigned to Judge Lorna G. Schofield.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “We allege that Bicher brazenly rented at least 18 apartments in Manhattan with the intent to ignore his lease obligations, including by operating the apartments as mini-hotels and skipping rent. When landlords sought to recover rental payments from Bicher, he lied and claimed that he could not make payments during the pendency of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Bicher obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPP money based on multiple fraudulent applications. Bicher abused Government programs and tenant protections intended to benefit New Yorkers in crisis, and he will have to answer for his conduct.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said: "As alleged, the defendant proudly executed multiple schemes to defraud both private entities and the United States government for his own personal benefit. The FBI remains committed to not only exterminating fraud in all its forms, but also to ensuring all those who abused a program designed to aid small businesses during an unprecedented global pandemic are held accountable."
As alleged in the Indictment and previously filed Complaint:
Beginning in at least February 2019, KONRAD BICHER, and/or individuals working in concert with BICHER, began renting apartment units (the “Units”) in Manhattan. The Units were leased pursuant to lease agreements which required that the lessee make monthly rental payments and also included clauses that prohibited the lessee from renting the Units to third parties on a short-term basis and/or included clauses that prohibited the lessee from subletting the Units to third parties without written consent of the owner. Despite the requirement to make monthly rental payments, BICHER failed to make payments as required by the lease agreements. For many of the Units, BICHER also refused to vacate the Units after the expiration of the lease agreements. During the period of time that BICHER failed to make required rental payments, including the period of time after a lease agreement expired and the premises had not been vacated, BICHER derived income by renting the Units on a short-term basis, including by posting the Units for rent on various online marketplaces, including Airbnb, Inc. (“Airbnb”).
Between in or about July 2019 and in or about April 2022, BICHER and his associates failed to make more than $1,000,000 in payments pursuant to the Lease Agreements or, for the period of time after the expiration of the Lease Agreements, based on the estimated fair market value for the Units. During this period, BICHER caused the Units to be listed for short-term rent on Airbnb and at least one other online marketplace for short-term rentals, resulting in at least $1,170,000 in rental income to BICHER and his associates.
Throughout the course of this scheme, the lessors of the Units made numerous efforts to recover rental payments from BICHER and/or to stop BICHER from continuing to rent the Units on a short-term basis, including by initiating civil litigation against BICHER. Despite these efforts, BICHER continued to rent certain Units on a short-term basis.
During the course of the scheme, BICHER referred to himself as the “Wolf of Airbnb” and explained to media outlets that this nickname referred to the fact that he was “hungry and ruthless enough to get on top of the financial ladder” and had the “ferocity…of a wolf, because wolves are territorial, vicious, and show no mercy when provoked.”
In addition, between at least in or about April 2021 until in or about July 2021, BICHER engaged in a scheme to obtain Government-guaranteed loans through a loan program of the United States Small Business Administration designed to provide relief to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, namely the PPP. In furtherance of this scheme, BICHER submitted at least four applications for PPP loans on behalf of at least three entities and obtained over $565,000 in loan proceeds. These PPP applications contained fraudulent documents and false information. For example, in connection with the PPP applications, BICHER submitted tax documents which were purportedly filed with the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). These documents were falsified, in that the entities seeking PPP loans had not actually filed the purported tax returns with the IRS, and BICHER has not otherwise reported the purported income to the IRS. In connection with one of the PPP applications, submitted on behalf of NY Approved Rentals, BICHER submitted a copy of a 2019 income tax return which was purportedly filed with the IRS and was signed by a particular accountant (“Accountant-1”) located in the state of Florida. In truth and fact, NY Approved Rentals did not file a tax return of any kind in 2019, and BICHER only requested that Accountant-1 prepare a tax return for NY Approved Rentals after BICHER was asked to provide a copy of the tax return in connection with the PPP loan.
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BICHER, 31, of Hialeah, Florida, is charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. The two counts of wire fraud each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The charge for aggravated identity theft carries an additional mandatory consecutive two-year sentence.
The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI.
This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Weinberg is in charge of the prosecution.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and Complaint and the description of the Indictment and Complaint set forth in this release constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.