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Hell’s Kitchen landlords are seeking $1.5 million in damages from New York’s latest scammer — the self-proclaimed “Wolf of Airbnb”, now wanted for illegally subletting his unit at the MiMa building on W42nd Street.
Konrad Bicher and associate Haley Frey are accused of owing over $100,000 in rent while running illegal short-term rentals for as much as $97 an hour in unit 43B of the luxury tower at 450 W42nd Street between Dyer and 10th Ave. Related property management company 42nd and 10th Associates LLC alleges that after Frey signed a lease in May of 2019, she quickly added Bicher as an additional occupant and the pair began renting out the space for photoshoots, music video production, and short-term stays. New York Law prohibits residential tenants from subleasing for less than 30 days.
While Frey’s prior involvement in short-term rentals remains unclear, this isn’t Bicher’s first run-in with landlords over the process. Bicher, in fact, likened himself to notorious stockbroker-turned-scammer Jordan Belfort, dubbing himself the Wolf of Airbnb and telling The Real Deal that “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,” said Bicher in a text.
According to court filings, Bicher has been previously named in more than 20 other cases, but that hasn’t stopped him. In some cases, Bicher argued that COVID hardship prevented him from paying up, leaving cases on hold while the creative entrepreneur was granted $141,875 in pandemic relief funds to his company, The Konrad Foundation LLC. Said Bicher in a text to The Real Deal, “In New York, tenants have rights. I am exercising my rights as a tenant, yet I am portrayed as a scammer.” Several other court filings were thrown out after landlords were unable to locate Bicher, who instead popped-up elsewhere in lavish dispatches from private jets on his now-deleted social media accounts.
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Back at MiMa on West 42nd, doormen had begun to notice a rotating stream of guests with suitcases and camera equipment repeatedly entering and exiting the unit. According to the case files, “There was an ever-changing cast of strangers with luggage coming in and out of the apartment for short-term stays. Defendants would leave notices to building personnel that these short-term transients were their ‘guests,’ and would leave cloned copies of key fobs.” Frey maintained that Bicher, though not the primary lease holder, could have access to the key fobs, suddenly alleging that he was her husband in an email: “Konrad is my husband and we have access to the same number and yes any questions management has they can email here as well as everything is documented.”
One guest was unable to even name who lived in the apartment, telling the front desk that they had secured a stay through Airbnb. In another incident, a guest claimed to be original leaseholder Frey, despite appearing nothing like the photo on file for her.
Frey herself hadn’t been seen in the building since July 2019. When faced with a cease and desist letter, she responded, “Can we work out a settle [sic] agreement to pay me to leave? Otherwise, I’ll keep the unit for years and litigate.”
W42ST reached out to the attorney cc’ed in Frey’s court documented correspondence as well as Bicher and Frey for comment. At the time of publication, we had not received any responses.
Bicher told The Real Deal that he hadn’t lived in the apartment for over a year and that Frey had only occasionally rented out the unit on Airbnb. Frey told The Real Deal that she had stopped renting out her unit after a request from management and that she had been illegally locked out of the apartment and moved out in November. Airbnb confirmed that Bicher had since been removed from the platform. The rental giant has recently cooperated with city officials in cracking down on short-term rentals, agreeing to share host information with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement and the Department of Buildings.
For now, we wait with bated breath until the trial begins, or the Wolf of Airbnb howls again — or is forever immortalized in an HBO limited series. Let a new spring scam season commence!