A 17-page indictment issued in California against Shray Goel includes charges of identity theft and wire fraud.
AUSTIN, Texas — Two men have been accused of orchestrating a multi-million dollar short-term rental scheme with properties throughout the entire United States, including in Austin.
A 17-page indictment that was issued in California against Shray Goel includes charges of identity theft and wire fraud. A second suspect, Shaunik Raheja, also faces charges in this case.
According to the Department of Justice, the two men owned and operated a short-term rental business under various names. The indictment states the two listed over 100 properties on short-term rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO.
One of the properties the men operated is located in East Austin.
The indictment states that Goel and those working with him used fake host names and misleading information about the various properties, stating that the “hosts” would use last-minute excuses for canceling overbooked guests or trick them into switching to other properties that weren’t as nice while refusing to issue refunds.
In some cases, the properties listed didn’t even exist.
According to the affidavit, the scheme resulted in $8.5 million in reservations.
KVUE spoke with the Better Business Bureau on the best ways to avoid rental pitfalls.
“Doing the research and that reverse image lookup really does help … A lot of times, [scammers] are going to take it from somebody who has a Facebook account not marked private, that’s public, and so they will go steal these photos of beautiful homes. There are even homes are listed on real estate sites and things like that and can pose as somebody listing the property,” said Better Business Bureau spokesperson Katie Galan.
Goel released a statement on social media addressing the indictment:
“As everything legal moves forward, I’m involved and cooperating fully. There’s a lot I can’t say right now, but I’m committed to making sure that when I can share more, I will,” Goel stated in a post on X.
A spokesperson for Airbnb said the company has taken multiple steps to strengthen its verification process for listings.