LONGBOAT KEY — Being the center of attention is one thing, but an Indiana couple discovered a few too many eyes on them in an intimate setting at an Airbnb unit in Longboat Key.
Derek Starnes and his wife rented the home for a trip and Starnes noticed a small black hole on the master bedroom’s smoke detector. A little investigation revealed that the device housed a camera and a microphone.
A shocked Starnes reported the situation to police, who in turn found 2 additional cameras in smoke detectors elsewhere in the home. Officers collected all computers, SD cards and other data storage devices they could find at the scene.
“We don’t know if there are local victims, someone who may have been dating, or a companion that doesn’t realize they are being videotaped,” said police Lieutenant Bob Bourque. “And then we have the other side of who he rented through Airbnb.”
It seems certain that there are other vicitims. In fact, investigators confirmed that an SD card from the scene had “a couple different people” on it.
Starnes, to the homeowner’s misfortune, works in the tech industry and was uncommonly qualified to notice the equipment. (He does note, though, that he failed to become aware of the bedroom camera before walking around the room naked.)
“My wife and I are distressed by this situation,” Starnes said. “I hope more victims will come forward.”
As to the author of this high-tech peeping-tom escapade, authorities turned to 56-year-old Wayne Natt, who owns the home and has been renting it through Airbnb for the past 2 years. Natt was arrested on a charge of video voyeurism and released on bond from Manatee County Jail.
According to Natt, his motives were indeed tied to sexual gratification, though not in the way most would assume. His claim was that the cameras were installed to record his personal sex parties at the residence, and that they were turned off when he rented the unit.
The claims were undercut by the fact that footage of Starnes and others was found on that device and others in the home.
Airbnb came out strongly against Natt’s actions, representing that they were “outraged” and had banned Natt from using the site.
“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,” Airbnb officials said. “We take privacy issues extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy against this behavior.”
The shoe may well be on the other foot soon for Natt; prisoners get observed closely in their “homes” as well!