New Orleans STR Companies Indicted for 36 Counts, Including Visa Fraud, Harboring Aliens

House for Rent on Trulia

Recently, Big Easy Magazine did what was meant to be a humorous, yet insightful, story on a short-term rental (STR) complex at 1814 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. One four bedroom unit listed at $7,000, now $6,000 per month, is available for booking through Airbnb, Trulia, and Hosteeva. (More on Hosteeva later.) Upon reviewing publicly provided documents, some discovered on a public Facebook post, it seems that this particular STR is more interesting than it first appeared. 

The company who owns this STR, Regal Hospitality Solutions, LLC. (RHS), and several of its owners/employees are under federal indictment. In an April 2021, press release from the United States Department of Justice titled, “Two Companies and Nine Individuals Indicted for Alleged Large-Scale Visa Fraud Employment Scheme” the indictment is laid out clearly here

“According to court documents, Regal Hospitality Solutions, LLC; Educational World, Inc.; Karen Makaryan, 42, Sargis Makaryan, 42, and Samvel Nikoghosyan, 40, of Destrehan, La.; Artur Grigoryan, 38, of Biloxi, Miss.; Armen Ayrapetyan, 37, of Duluth, Ga.; Jason Hill, 28, of Virginia Beach, Va.; Fremie Balbastro, 49, of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Larisa Khariton, 73, and Jon Clark, 71, of North Port, Fla., were charged in a 36-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on April 8. Each defendant was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States, including encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States, alien harboring, transporting aliens, and visa fraud.  Each defendant also was charged with substantive counts of encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States, alien harboring, and transportation of aliens. In addition, Regal Hospitality Solutions, LLC; Karen Makaryan; Sargis Makaryan; Samvel Nikoghosyan; Artur Grigoryan; Armen Ayrapetyan; Fremie Balbastro; and Jason Hill were also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.”

RHS considers itself a staffing service, according to its website which has a Twitter account that’s had two posts since 2013, writing on their website that, “Regal Hospitality Solutions is uniquely positioned to help you recruit, train, and manage a high-quality staff that is ready to work and extend the quality of your company. Good service and a positive attitude make all the difference for us.” They provide staff for factories, hotels, warehouses, and restaurants.

According to the indictment, among other charges, employees were funneled through Educational World, Inc. to RHS, as employees for resort and STR properties. 

And while you may have heard of Airbnb and Trulia, Hosteeva may be new to you. Hosteeva, LLC, is a booking business for New Orleans short-term rentals, et al. Hosteeva’s website includes in “Our Team” at least two of the people included in the indictment above. Both Hosteeva and Regal Hospitality Solutions, LLC, operate out of the same office space in Metairie, according to Dun & Bradstreet, with a link provided here, and further information here

In fairness, the company’s Better Business Bureau rating is A+. Big Easy Magazine reached out to the BBB of Southeast Louisiana who were unaware of any pending legal action against Hosteeva or its owners. According to the BBB, the main criteria for a good rating is how quickly a company responds to complaints, rather than the number or type of complaints involved.  

Others have contacted the city and Airbnb to see if they were comfortable with an STR whose owners are accused of exploiting immigrants, but have received no response. It appears that there is nothing in the City Code of Ordinances that prohibits the owners of an STR from illegal activities regarding laborers, leaving this up to the criminal code. 

As of this post, the city has not responded to a request for information concerning the STR. 

Application for short-term rentals are a matter of public record. Here is a link to the STR application for 1814 Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard.

Big Easy Magazine has also reached out to Airbnb regarding this listing by phone and via their press email. They provided a brief statement: “Thanks for reaching out about this. I wanted to let you know that we’ve received your email and are having our team look into this. We’ll be in touch again soon.

It is important to note that being under indictment is not the same as being guilty of illegality. An indictment does not equal a conviction, and those under indictment are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

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