Monday, December 11, 2017
Public safety

Airbnb renters find hidden camera in bedroom of Longboat Key condo

LONGBOAT KEY — When an Indiana couple arrived at their Longboat Key Airbnb rental last month, they found something in the bedroom they didn't expect.

A hidden camera.

According to published reports, Derek Starnes said he and his wife noticed a small hole in the smoke detector on the ceiling of their Airbnb's bedroom on Sept. 1, the day after they checked into the condo at 623 Cedars Court.

Starnes removed the device and found a microphone and a camera hidden inside.

They called the police. When officers arrived, they found another camera hidden in the condo's living room and seized all hard drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices, according to reports.

The homeowner, 56-year-old Wayne Natt, was arrested by Longboat Key Police and faces one charge of video voyeurism.

Natt reportedly admitted to filming dozens of sex acts, but claimed that participants were aware of the cameras.

While Natt currently faces the one count, there could be more if authorities determine the rest of the seized footage captured unknowing guests.

According to Longboat Key police, when asked why he needed to hide the camera in a smoke detector if the participants were consenting, Natt replied that the mounted camera "provided a better angle."

Starnes told police he was able to notice the concealed pinhole camera only because he works in the information technology sector.

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit said Natt had an account on its website for two years and was reviewed around 40 times.

"We are outraged at the reports of what happened," Breit said in the statement. "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."

Airbnb performs background checks for state and county criminal records, as well as state and national sex offender listings, according to the company's website.

However, "background checks don't always identify a person's past crimes or other red flags," the website states. "They are never a guarantee that a person won't break the law in the future."

Contact Samantha Putterman at sputterman@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter @samputterman.

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