SF police arrest suspect in trashing of Airbnb rental

While leaving the Web site's name out, police confirm they arrested a woman in connection to an incident that went viral this week in which an apartment rented through an online service was thieved and vandalized.

A 19-year-old woman was arrested late last month in connection with an investigation into the theft and trashing of property from an apartment that had been rented out via a Web site rental service, San Francisco police confirmed to CNET today.

Screenshot from Airbnb by Lance Whitney/CNET

The arrest stems from an incident a San Francisco woman blogged about on June 29. The woman, who goes by EJ, wrote that she rented her apartment out to a stranger through the Airbnb site and returned home to find her place trashed and her jewelry, electronics, money, and other valuables missing. The post went viral this week, prompting Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to write a guest column on TechCrunch about the incident, and then prompted the victim to post an update yesterday that's critical of how Airbnb handled the situation.

San Francisco police said in a statement that they arrested 19-year-old Faith Clifton of San Francisco on June 28 and booked her into county jail that night on possession of stolen property and methamphetamine, and on fraud charges and because of an outstanding warrant. Two other people had been detained earlier that day in connection to the incident but were released, police said, adding that some stolen items were recovered.

"SFPD has been in contact with the victim and has been in contact with the Web site company, which has provided as much information as possible in this matter," the statement said. A police representative said officials were not identifying the Web site involved.

The post went viral likely because of the details of the incident and the woman's emotional openness about feelings of violation and loss.

"With an entire week living in my apartment, Dj (the supposed name of the renter) and friends had more than enough time to search through literally everything inside, to rifle through every document, every photo, every drawer, every storage container, and every piece of clothing I own, essentially turning my world inside out, and leaving a disgusting mess behind," the victim's original blog post says.

"They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card, and grandmother's jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals...my entire life," the post continues. "They found my birth certificate and Social Security card, which I believe they photocopied--using the printer/copier I kindly left out for my guests' use. They rifled through all my drawers, wore my shoes and clothes, and left my clothing crumpled up in a pile of wet, mildewing towels on the closet floor. They found my coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond and used the discount, along with my MasterCard, to shop online."

The San Francisco Chronicle and AllThingsD appeared to be the first to report on the arrest. AllThingsD published the following statement, reportedly issued today from Airbnb:

We were shocked and disturbed to hear about this unfortunate situation and since that moment have done everything in our power to assist EJ. We have offered assistance with accommodation, transportation, and financial support to help EJ find some sense of security in light of such tragic circumstances. We have also been assisting the police with their investigation and have confirmed with the SFPD that they have a female suspect in custody that they are investigating for vandalism and theft. Safety and security are our utmost priorities, and we are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.
 

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