Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that KONRAD BICHER pled guilty today to wire fraud in connection with his fraudulent operation of real estate companies, including by entering lease agreements for residential apartment units in Manhattan on false and fraudulent pretenses and by making false statements to obtain loans guaranteed by the United States government.  BICHER pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Bicher proudly referred to himself as the ‘Wolf of Airbnb.’  But, as he admitted in court today, his businesses were premised on fraud.  Bicher entered into lease agreements on false pretenses and made false statements to obtain loans guaranteed by the United States government.  Bicher lined his own pockets by abusing government programs and tenant protections intended to benefit those in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thanks to the hard work of the FBI and this Office, he is being held accountable for his conduct.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint, Indictment, other court documents, and statements made in Court:

Beginning in at least February 2019, 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, such as 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.  BICHER relied on legal protections intended to benefit tenants, including tenant protections adopted in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to oppose the lawsuits.  Despite relying on tenant protections for New Yorkers in need, BICHER continued to generate revenue by renting certain Units on a short-term basis.

In addition, between at least in or about April 2021 until in or about July 2021, BICHER obtained 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 Paycheck Protection Program (“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.

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.”

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BICHER, 31, of Hialeah, Florida, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  BICHER also agreed to forfeit $1,740,407.12 and to make restitution to victims in the amount of $1,985,251.

The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Weinberg is in charge of the prosecution.


Nicholas Biase
(212) 637-2600