A crackdown on hourly rentals in Tennessee hotels has apparently sent sex workers into area Airbnbs, with one Oakland man allegedly traveling south to cash in on the brave new brothel world.
ABC 7 reports that 23-year-old Oakland, California resident Travis Young was arrested in Memphis, Tennessee Monday, after a neighbor tipped police off regarding an alleged pop-up brothel being run from the home.
According to NewsFix, a neighbor identified only as "Jeff" was hosting a Game of Thrones premiere party Sunday when he says he saw as many as 31 solitary men coming and going from the property.
“For the first few guys I thought, ‘I’m not really seeing what I’m seeing here,’ but after a while, it became pretty clear."
WMCA reports that police found an online posting advertising sex at the address, then "contacted the advertiser, who confirmed prices for sexual favors." On Monday, police raided the residence, finding "used condoms strewn about the floor, jars of marijuana, $4,058 in cash, a handgun that's believed to be stolen, and three children." Young and four others were arrested at the scene.
NewsFix reports that Young rented the property through San Francisco-based Airbnb, noting that "both renters and guests have to undergo background checks in order to use the site."
According to WCMA, one of the sex workers employed in the rental says "she provides for Travis Young through prostitution. She said Young does not have a job, but he reserves rental properties for her to use while prostituting. She said she pays for the rentals and supports Young with the proceeds she makes."
The home's owners, who were on vacation when Young rented the residence from July 14-17, have removed it from Airbnb, Fox 13 reports.
“The owners of the home are great people, and they rented it out before,” Jeff said. “We’ve never had an issue. This was definitely unusual.”
David Harris, who works on the cleaning crew that reportedly comes to the Airbnb after each renter leaves, tells Fox 13 “There’s condoms on the floor...Every single dirty thing you can imagine is probably in there.”
"This has ruined Airbnb for me," Harris says.
As reported in 2016, Airbnbs are reportedly widely used for sex work, as “Airbnb is a simple way for women who don’t have an enormous amount of money to transition into indoor work,” one sex worker said at the time.
And in Tennessee, there's another incentive to choose Airbnb as a venue for clients: According to the Tennessean, in an effort to crack down on sex work, hotels in that state's major cities prohibit rental periods of less than ten hours, making an Airbnb no more expensive than any but the seediest hotel room.
When contacted in 2016, Airbnb said that they "have a zero-tolerance policy for issues like these...When hosts and guests sign up for our service they agree to comply with local law."
In reference to this week's case, Airbnb released a statement that echoed that sentiment, saying"
Airbnb has zero tolerance for this type of behavior and we are outraged over what has reportedly taken place. We immediately removed this user from our community and we are fully supporting our host. Airbnb runs background checks on all US residents using the platform and we are urgently investigating this in coordination with local law enforcement.
But when asked by Fox 13 if he believed Airbnb did enough to protect users, Harris said “I don’t think they do at all. They should do a lot more to weed out this kind of thing.”
The city of Memphis is charging Young with "promoting prostitution, money laundering, and drug possession," Fox 13 reports. The three children found at the scene have since been placed with child protective services.