Rental App Host Allegedly Hid Camera, Took 2,100 Explicit Images of Guests

A vacation rental host in Texas is facing 15 counts of invasive visual recording after investigators discovered more than 2,100 explicit images of guests taken by a hidden camera in the bedroom.

A Jay Allee was originally arrested on November 20, 2021, after a guest at his cabin rental outside of San Antonio contacted the authorities about a camera in the bedroom that was disguised as a power adapter.

Allee had attained status as a VRBO Premier Host and an Airbnb Superhost, KSAT-TV reported.

In Texas, invasive visual recording is a felony offense punishable by up to 180 days to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. According to the Texas Penal Code, Invasive visual recording is defined as photographing, recording or broadcasting an individual's intimate areas in a space with an expectation of privacy, such as a bathroom or bedroom, without consent.

Police said a guest staying at one of Allee's rentals outside of San Antonio notified them in July after they discovered a camera in the bedroom that was disguised as a power adapter.

According to KSAT-TV, the couple became suspicious of Allee after he made multiple comments about watching the sunset on the porch in pajamas or nude. A search warrant was issued the following day by the Kendall County Sheriff's Office.

Allee, 53, was initially charged with four counts of invasive visual recording, KSAT-TV reported. In December, Allee was arrested again for an additional charge.

A civil suit filed against Allee on December 1 claimed he intentionally inflicted distress and violated guests' privacy.

Attorneys Roger Bresnahan and Bianca Zuniga-Goldwater are representing the 17 individuals who were guests at the cabin and alleged they were personally victimized by Allee.

Investigators uncovered more than 2,100 images of guests naked and having sex on laptops, tablets and cell phones that were linked to the camera and allegedly belonged to Allee.

It is believed that the hidden camera, which can be easily purchased online, was set up for at least nine months but was only first discovered in July.

"It's a real-life scary movie. It's not like these clients of ours went on the classifieds and found a random property, posted by this faceless person to stay at," Zuniga-Goldwater told KSAT-TV. "They went through what they thought were these safe, huge premier hosting companies that vet these great properties."

However, Allee's lawyer told KSAT-TV that his client is completely innocent of all charges against him.

A spokesperson with Airbnb told Newsweek that hosts must disclose cameras in public areas and that cameras are not allowed in bedrooms, bathrooms or any space deemed private.

"On our platform, we strictly ban hidden cameras," the spokesperson said. "The reported criminal behavior of this bed-and-breakfast owner is outrageous, and he and his property are banned from Airbnb. Our law enforcement operations team has been working to support the Kendall County Sheriff's Office in their investigation."

A spokesperson for VRBO told Newsweek they also do not allow listings on their platform to have surveillance devices inside the property.

"We have a strict, long-standing policy against surveillance devices that violate the privacy and security of our guests," the spokesperson said. "Outside a property, devices such as external security cameras or smart doorbells are only allowed under specific rules, and the host must always disclose their presence. Although these occurrences are rare, our trust and safety team actively investigates any complaints about bad actors and takes action accordingly, including permanently removing any host in violation of our policies."

Both VRBO and Airbnb confirmed with Newsweek that Allee's listings were removed from both platforms and that he has been permanently prohibited from using the platforms."

Newsweek reached out to the Kendall County Sheriff's Office for comment.

Hidden camera in Airbnb
A rental host in Texas was arrested after guests discovered a hidden camera and police discovered more than 1,200 explicit photos. A Jay Allee was originally arrested on November 20, 2021. DSCimage/iStock