A man has been accused of hiding at least two cameras in his Airbnb rental in the well-to-do coastal town of Longboat Key, Florida, between Tampa and Sarasota.
A couple visiting from Indiana discovered the cameras—one in the bedroom and one in the living room—on September 1, just a day after arriving, and reported them to police. The husband, Derek Starnes, told a local ABC television affiliate that he is sure the bedroom camera recorded him naked.
“My wife and I are distressed by this situation,” Starnes told the TV station. “I hope more victims will come forward.”
After getting a warrant to search the house at 623 Cedars Court on September 2, investigators now believe that dozens of renters going back years may have been captured on video without their knowledge. Lt. Robert Bourque of the Longboat Key Police Department told Ars that the suspect, Wayne Natt, was arrested on October 3 and charged with one count of video voyeurism. Natt has since been released on bond.
Bourque was one of the officers who responded to the condo at Cedars Court. He said the hidden cameras were “Wi-Fi capable” and that he and his colleagues seized “multiple storage devices.” Lt. Bourque declined to describe how much data they held locally.
“We questioned the property owner,” Bourque said. “He said that the cameras were used for ‘personal purposes.'” Bourque further explained to Ars that these purposes were “sexual in nature.”
“[Natt] stated that he has 20 to 30 videos with sexual activity, but all parties involved had knowledge they were being recorded,” Bourque said. “He never mentioned sex parties; he did state he was a swinger.”
Beyond Natt’s claimed proclivities, Bourque took a dim view of the suspect’s actions. “He was interviewed with his attorney, and he was cooperative but not truthful in my opinion,” Lt. Bourque continued. “His statement was that nobody from the Airbnb was videoed, [and] he had cameras off—but the first video I saw was the victim from the Airbnb.”
The lieutenant also explained that he and his colleagues now have to identify the potential other victims and determine whether they were filmed surreptitiously. “We have one charge, or we could have 30 more,” he said. “We just don’t know at this point.”
Natt’s attorney, Richard Ruhr, was not immediately available for comment.
Airbnb did not immediately respond to Ars’ questions, but Benjamin Breit, a spokesman, did tell WFLA Tampa in a statement that the company was “outraged.”
The statement says:
As soon as we were made aware, we permanently banned this individual from our community and fully supported the affected guests… Our team has reached out to local law enforcement to aid them with their investigation of this egregious offense, and we hope justice is served. We take privacy issues extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy against this behavior.
In December 2015, a woman sued Airbnb for negligence over similar accusations of voyeurism by a host.