$8.5M Nationwide Airbnb Scam Targeted Black People, Prosecutors Allege

Prosecutors allege that real estate "visionary" Shray Goel and an accomplice decided who to scam in part based on racial prejudices.
$8.5M Nationwide Airbnb Scam Targeted Black People, Feds Allege

Two alleged fraudsters were indicted in an multi-million dollar, nationwide Airbnb scam this week. If that wasn’t bad enough, the federal government now alleges that the scam specifically discriminated against Black renters, according to a press release published Thursday and a new indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.


The Wednesday indictment against Shray Goel, 35, of Miami and Shaunik Raheja, 34, of Denver accuses them of raking in $8.5 million through a series of scams on Airbnb and Vrbo. Both men were first identified in a 2019 VICE investigation by reporter Allie Conti. 

Goel and Raheja are accused of owning and leasing over 100 properties across the country, double-booking them to get the highest payments possible, then forcing the lower paying renters into dilapidated apartments. The U.S. Attorney’s office called the scheme a “secret bidding war.”

The government’s superseding indictment—typically the result of newly-revealed information—says that the pair “made decisions about which guests to keep and which to cancel based in part on their racial prejudices and discrimination.” Goel and Raheja made decisions about which guests to keep and which to cancel based in part on their perception that the guests were Black, causing those renters monetary harm when their rentals were canceled at the last minute, the indictment says. 

“Fueled by greed, the defendants deceived consumers about the locations and conditions of properties, canceled reservations to double-book properties and based on racial prejudices, and lied to victims leaving them scrambling to find last-minute replacement accommodations,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada is quoted as saying in the press release. Estrada added that the “sheer number of victims is astonishing.”

Goel, who earlier this week posted a message to X alluding to the indictment, posted another message on Thursday after the superseding indictment was announced. In it, he again alluded to the indictment without describing or defending any specific actions.

 “While it's easy to get caught up in a media narrative - I hope you give me the opportunity to share my perspective once the legal process concludes,” Goel wrote on the very long X post.