Neighbors question safety of Airbnb after couple arrested

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Some are questioning the safety of Airbnb after a couple staying at one was arrested.

According to Metro police, convicted felon Dhargham Ateia, 26, and his girlfriend Carla Flores, 25, were arrested after police found more than $23,000 cash, 28 pounds of marijuana, and 6 guns in their vehicles.

Investigators say the search and seizure happened in front of an Airbnb the couple had rented at 807 Boscobel Street in East Nashville.

MORE: 28 lbs of pot found after Nashville traffic stop for seat belt violation

(Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)

Neighbor Carol Norton saw the commotion when the arrest happened on July 5.

“I saw three undercover officer vehicles and I thought what in the world is going on? Then we heard it on the news,” Norton told News 2. “It’s very concerning.”

Norton has lived on Boscobel street for over 40 years. She says she has fought over the years to clean up the area. Norton also helped designate her neighborhood as a historic district.

Now, she’s fighting a modern invasion: Airbnb.

Metro Council has been mulling over for months whether non-owner occupied short-term rental properties should be allowed in Nashville. Those are properties where the owner doesn’t live on site but instead solely rents them on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

A committee has been formed and a final vote should take place in September.

(Photo: WKRN)

Norton says you never know who is coming and going with short-term properties where the owner’s don’t live there.

“It’s hard to report suspicious behavior or if someone looks out of place when you don’t know who’s coming and going,” she said.

News 2 asked Airbnb how Ateia, a convicted felon, was able to stay at the property.

Airbnb says it background checks its hosts and the guests who book each property.

“We screen all hosts and guests globally against regulatory, terrorist, and sanctions watch lists,” the company said in a statement. “For United States residents, we also run background checks for felony convictions, sex offender registrations, or significant misdemeanors.”

In this case, Ateia didn’t book the property, and Airbnb says the guest who did has since been removed from its website. Still, Ateia was allegedly staying there.

Here is Airbnb’s full statement:

Keeping our Nashville community safe is the most important thing we do. There have been more than 200 million guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents are extremely rare. Even so, we’re constantly working to improve our platform, our policies, and our protections, because even one incident is one too many. After learning of this incident, this guest was removed from our community and we have reached out to the Nashville Police Department to assist them with their investigation.

We screen all hosts and guests globally against regulatory, terrorist, and sanctions watch lists. For United States residents, we also run background checks for felony convictions, sex offender registrations, or significant misdemeanors.

Background:

  • Risk Scoring: To prevent bad actors from ever accessing our platform in the first place, each and every Airbnb reservation is scored ahead of time for risk. We have a real-time detection system that uses machine learning and predictive analytics to instantly evaluate hundreds of signals to flag and then stop any suspicious activity. When we detect potentially concerning behavior, our team takes a range of actions, from requesting additional information such as a government ID or credit card verification, to removing a user from the platform entirely.

  • Detailed Profiles: Each and every person on Airbnb has a detailed profile page with information about themselves and their home. In order to sign up for Airbnb, you must provide a full name, date of birth, photo, phone number, and email address. Hosts can also require that guests provide a government ID before booking their listing, and then the host in turn is required to do so as well.

  • Secure Messaging: Through the Airbnb platform, we also have a safe and easy way for guests and hosts to get to know each other directly before requesting or approving a reservation. Our secure on-platform messaging tool can help you break the ice, ask each other questions, and set clear expectations—something we highly recommend doing.

  • Reviews: Plus, there is also have a global community to rely on. If hosts are curious what previous hosts have thought about their potential guest all they need to do is check their reviews. Guests and hosts publicly review each other and only after the reservation is complete, so you know the feedback is informed, unbiased, and real.

  • 24/7 Global Response & Assistance: In the rare event that any issue should arise, Airbnb’s global Customer Service and Trust and Safety teams are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in 11 different languages to help make things right with rebooking assistance, as well as refunds, reimbursements, and insurance programs. If, for instance, you arrive at a listing and it’s not as advertised, all you need to do is reach out to our team as we are here to help.