LONGBOAT KEY (FOX 13) - Police in Longboat Key arrested a man who they say secretly recorded people that rented his condo on Airbnb. The camera was so small, most people had no clue they were being watched as they changed, slept and enjoyed their vacations. It was hidden in a smoke detector.
"I would've never noticed," said Lt. Bob Bourque of the Longboat Key Police Department. "The smoke detector had a small black dot where the camera was mounted on the side of it. There was one in the master bedroom which was pointed at a bed and then one in the living room."
September 1, a couple staying a 623 Cedars Court called police after the husband, who works in IT, noticed the device. After getting a search warrant, police seized computers, hard drives, thumb drives and compact discs.
"All we've accessed so far is the SD card that was in the smoke alarm. And our vacationers that were here, were on that SD card," Bourque said.
Condo owner Wayne Natt was charged with video voyeurism, a third-degree felony. FOX 13 stopped by Cedars Court after he bonded out of jail, but didn't find him.
Natt told police he's a swinger and records sexual activity with peoples' knowledge. He claimed that during the couple's stay, the cameras were off.
"Of course, we asked him the question, if everyone had knowledge, then why hidden cameras?" Bourque said. "His answer to that was, a better angle of video, which we don't necessarily believe."
Airbnb released a statement saying, "We are outraged at the reports of what happened; 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."
The company said that Airbnb hosts must fully disclose whether there are security cameras or other surveillance equipment at or around the listing and to get consent where required. Cameras are never allowed in bathrooms or bedrooms.
"I was just surprised because these things just don't happen around here," said Longboat Key resident Jody Vitt. "It really was shocking to hear."
Without any special equipment, how can renters protect themselves?
"All I can say is, in the area where you may not be clothed, in a bathroom or bedroom, be very vigilant and look around," Bourque said. "But, it's really tough. If somebody's got a camera hidden, you may not find it."
We contacted Wayne Natt's attorney to hear their side of the case. She did not return our call.
Investigators tell us that Natt was on the Airbnb site for two years and believe there are more victims. They're reviewing data and video taken from the home and verifying if the people recorded were fully aware. If you stayed at 623 Cedars Court, give Longboat Key police a call.