Everyone knows Anthony in the North End – just not this one

Phony host names on rental site mislead as to who the owner is

THIS STORY IS A SIDEBAR TO THE MAIN STORY: THE AIRBNB GOLD RUSH IS ON.

ANTHONY WAS A popular Airbnb host. His 88 units in Boston, including about half in the North End, drew more than 2,000 mostly positive reviews over a 15-month period.

“We had a fantastic stay in Anthony’s place,” wrote Carol from Killarney, Ireland, who stayed there in October. “It is in a great location in the heart of the North End. Probably one of the comfiest beds I have slept in!”

Anthony, whose clean, handsome face adorned the listings in a picture with, presumably, his pretty blonde wife or girlfriend lovingly draping her arms around him, loves to travel, he says in his bio. “Entrepreneur by day, international traveler in my spare time,” he writes. “Living the busy startup life. Would love to host you!”

A screenshot from “Anthony’s” host page on Airbnb.

Very inviting and warm except one thing—this Anthony isn’t real, unless he has a second job as a model. The picture on the Airbnb listing appears to be a stock photo from Getty images. The photo also appears on webpages for a Canadian church, a Florida payday loan company, a Washington state dental practice, and a California bail bondsman. Anthony, as people of a certain age might recall, was the name of the kid in the old Prince Spaghetti ads.

The same picture of “Anthony” appears on at least four other unrelated internet sites.

In November, after the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations began asking around about who Anthony is following complaints by residents near some of his units, Anthony’s face suddenly disappeared from the listings and the new host was listed simply as Domio. It appears that Domio is a New York-based, short-term rental management company that, for a 20 percent cut, acts as host for thousands of listings around the globe on Airbnb. Company officials did not return a request for comment.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

Airbnb officials dismiss the “Anthony” listing as an outlier, even though it appears many of the commercial listings have false names and bios. Crystal Davis, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, insists those aren’t indicative of the company’s average host. “They have their own websites,” Davis says of the commercial offerings.   “Airbnb isn’t their only channel.”

It’s clearly a marketing practice, an action to maintain the perception that Airbnb hosts are just folks like us looking to share their homes. “A lot of these names are fake on Airbnb,” says Ford Cavallari, chairman of the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations. “This is a great example of one of the things that I think is really rotten about what’s going on here.”