Anti-narcotics agents detected that organizations of criminals are renting property through platforms like Airbnb to store and distribute their merchandise. It has resulted in several states, and they continue to use this method even during the pandemic.
Florida waterfront homes that received cocaine-laden boats set sail in the Dominican Republic, homes in several states to which they sent methamphetamine packages, and California homes that were reached by cars that crossed the border with drug shipments.
Criminals are renting houses to receive, store and distribute drugs
These properties have one thing in common: Criminals are renting them for a few days through platforms like Airbnb just to store and distribute narcotics. The Drug Control Administration (DEA) warns that it is a new method that posters continue to use even in the midst of the pandemic.
“It’s perfect for traffickers because they can use the house, they receive shipments of drugs that arrive from Mexico, store them there for a couple of days, distribute them and then go to the next house”
Bill Bodner, head of the DEA office in Los Angeles, California, told ABC7.
“We’ve seen this start happening recently and it’s something that’s going on right under our noses. And it can be a threat from violent and criminal acts in neighborhoods where you don’t normally expect it”, the federal official warned.
Bodner explained in the same way that cartel operators have more homes available on the Internet, as several property owners do not want to make long-term contracts for fear of ordinances prohibiting them from evicting tenants due to coronavirus.
The problem, he warned, is that landlords enter a system that receives cash and does not adequately verify who and what the house will be used for. “Many times traffickers use someone else to rent the property. It could be someone with no criminal record. They’ll give him a stipend for renting the house for them, maybe a couple of thousand dollars”, Bodner told ABC7.
Airbnb was delinquered from these criminal activities in a brief statement sent to Univision News, in which it stressed that they rarely occur on its properties. “We take these reports incredibly seriously. Although they are very rare, when we are informed we work to support law enforcement agencies in their investigations,” said spokesman Charlie Urbancic.
Prior to the pandemic, both the DEA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had already discovered that smugglers were trying to erase the trail of their illicit transactions by operating in homes which criminals are renting.
Between September and October 2018, undercover FBI agents made marijuana purchases to locate the hideout of drug dealer Amir Gibreel, who earned up to $100,000 a month selling the weed in Washington DC. They eventually located an apartment he rented on Airbnb.
When they searched the house, they found a gun, bullets, marijuana, nine cell phones, four laptops and $15,000 in cash. Gibreel was sentenced in October 2019 to more than two years in prison.
In another police operation in 2018, Francisco Guevara Zamudio was arrested, who used a house in Honey Creek, Iowa, which he rented on Airbnb to store methamphetamine. When they seized the property they seized more than 10 pounds of the drug and several firearms, including an AR-15 rifle.
From Dominican to Miami
Narcos have also rented places for larger transactions. This was revealed by announcing that a federal operative arrested dozens of members of the Sinaloa Cartel from San Diego, California, in May 2019 mailing meth and ‘club drugs’ to various locations in the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
Those who received the merchandise weekly used “several Airbnb hotels, residences and houses”, according to a statement from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
Instead of taking over a network of carriers, which has been the most common method of the Sinaloa Cartel in the US, that criminal network used the mail and the FedEx parcel company to send ‘crystal‘ and pills from the narcotic gamma hydroxybutylate (GHB), one of the so-called ‘club drugs’ because they are often consumed in nightclubs and ‘rave’ parties, to sub-distributors in California, Arizona, Oregon, Wyoming, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Virginia, Washington DC, New Jersey and New York.
Profits reached the leaders of this cell through cash smuggling, bank deposits and wire transfers by PayPal, Zelle, Venmo and Cash App.
Another case points to a trafficking organization that in South Florida received more than 800 kilos of cocaine from the Dominican Republic. The drug was moved by boat and reached directly to the docks of houses in Miami that they rented on Airbnb.
The prime suspect is Angel David Rosario, a 34-year-old U.S. citizen. With the help of an informant, DEA agents followed him to a house he rented in Miami Shores through a service he offers for a few days properties in Florida and Trinidad and Tobago.
During the investigation they discovered that in early 2019 Rosario had rented by Airbnb a waterfront property in which she received about 400 kilos of the drug, which she successfully distributed and paid her bosses, according to court documents.
So, “he again rented another Airbnb home with access to the sea” and “hired several people to rent housing in South Florida, distribute cocaine and receive the proceeds” the indictment states.
On that occasion they received about 420 kilos of cocaine. Each sold it for $29,000. One of the informants claimed that one dealer identified as ‘Gregory’ bought 50 kilos and another who they nickname ‘Chulo’ paid him $300,000 for another part of the shipment.
The indictment against Rosario was filed in January in a federal court in Miami and continues to advance. This man was released in February after posting a $500,000 bond.