Man accused of using Airbnb for crystal meth operation

(KHON) — Federal charges are filed against a Hawaii resident busted for alleged drug trafficking.

Authorities say he turned to a popular website to try and avoid getting caught.

Court documents say Walter Rolando Atemio Dominguez Garcia was arrested for meth trafficking and faces charges of distributing a controlled substance. He made his initial appearance in federal court Tuesday.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court says that on June 16, federal investigators tracked a package that was sent to a Wilhelmina Rise address to the name Walter Rolando Dominguez.

The package contained 11 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, authorities say.

Records show the drugs were sent to a house that Garcia had rented through Airbnb, and federal investigators say Garcia even went so far as to give an online review of the home.

Investigators say the suspect received another package in July, also with 11 pounds of meth, at an Ala Moana address.

Defense attorney Michael Green, who’s not involved in this case, says this is one way for drug dealers to try and avoid getting caught.

“You can disassociate yourself from where it is ultimately is sent, then you’ve got a chance of at least saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know anything about it.’ If somebody wants to set me up and send a package to my B&B or wherever they’re sending it to, ‘I know nothing about it,’” said Green.

KHON2 reached out to Airbnb to find out what if anything can be done to try and stop criminals from using homes as a place to drop off illegal drugs.

The company sent us a statement that said:

“We have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior and have permanently banned this user from our platform. Airbnb reached out to the authorities to assist them with their investigation and we will help them in any way we can. There have been over 200 million guest arrivals in listings and negative incidents like this are incredibly rare.”
In this case, the suspect was caught because he also tried to sell some of the drugs to undercover officers. Records show that when he was arrested, Garcia said that he had three pounds on him. He then asked investigators if “it was from the first package or from the second package.”

“I think you are going to see more of the B&B part, because this is kind of a new thing for people,” Green warned. “They have a bunch of these apartments and they’re renting them out but the whole thing for it is disassociating yourself.”

Garcia remains in federal custody. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19.



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