Will Croxton was three weeks into a cross-country road-trip with his wife and two kids when he first got the sense something might be going wrong at home. Croxton, a musician and teacher, and his wife, a Brooklyn high school principal, had been renting out half of the duplex they own in an industrial part of Williamsburg for $200 a night on Airbnb. It was their first time using the short-term rental service, and their first two guests had stayed five days each without incident in the apartment the Croxtons call home.

The happy family was driving out of Yellowstone National Park after four days with limited internet access when, Croxton recalled, "I got a call from a guy. He said his name was Lester and he wanted to get in." Croxton was confused because, he said, he had set his account to require confirmation for would-be renters to book the apartment, but Lester had booked it without the extra step. Also, Lester was booked in for a Tuesday, but now said he wanted to come in a day early, meaning Croxton had to modify the reservation.

Still, a glance at Lester's booking request—which showed a bespectacled man; full name: Lester Moore; hometown: Seattle; purpose of stay: "Relaxing vacation with family nothing big"—didn't raise any red flags. It was Monday, August 22nd. Croxton revised the booking and told Lester the passcode to the front door. For a time, though, Lester didn't confirm the new reservation, despite Croxton's repeated messages asking that he do so, Croxton said.

"He said, 'I'm on a train. I can't do it right now,'" Croxton recalled.

The following morning, one of Croxton's tenants, who live in the upper two floors of his family's four-story townhouse, reached out to say that the hall stank of pot smoke.

"I quickly texted Lester," Croxton said. "I said that was in violation and if he kept it up he couldn’t stay. He said, 'Is it all right if I smoke cigarettes in your backyard?' I said, 'Whatever. Sure, that's fine.'"

"nothing big," eh? (Will Croxton)

Also around this time, Croxton said his tenants and a neighbor alerted him that the three people coming and going were in their teens or 20s. There were no young children or older adults in sight.

"Something was going on, because clearly they weren't a family," he said. A tenant had also spotted one of the family's cats in the hall. Feeding the cats had been part of the rental deal, and it took the tenant a lot of explanation to get the young teenager who answered the door to let the cat back in and vaguely concede the need to feed it, Croxton said.

Further aggravating Croxton, Lester still had not agreed to the changed reservation, meaning the additional $200 charge was still outstanding.

"By Wednesday, I had had it," he said. "I wrote, 'If you’re not going to make this change, I’m going to get you out of there.'"

"Almost immediately, I got a notification that the payment was confirmed. Not only was it confirmed, the extra day was also added, so I’d been paid in full. I said, 'Hey, thanks for doing that.'"

Within an hour, though, Airbnb wrote to say that the payment had been declined. Croxton was confused, because the payment had already gone through on his end.

He wondered, "Wouldn’t a hold have been placed onto that credit card for that amount of money, like a hotel would do?"

(Will Croxton)

In talking to Airbnb, he says a rep told him that he could tell the renters to leave, but his phone died, and he was on the road. When he got where he was going, he dashed off an email to his tenants to see how everything was going. Not well, it turned out.

That morning, the Airbnb renters had walked into the upstairs apartment using a key they'd found in the Airbnb unit, and when confronted by a tenant, said they were trying to get to the roof. They tried again that evening, this time with five people, while one of the tenants was asleep in bed.

By the late Thursday evening, there was a party raging in the downstairs apartment. When the upstairs tenants called around 11:30 p.m., they counted 60 people in the backyard, which, though advertised on Airbnb as "large," was pretty densely packed at that point.

Croxton called Airbnb customer service, and after what he described as "forever on hold," got patched through to the company's Disaster Response Team. Together, the company representatives and Croxton decided to call 911, he said. The NYPD, after pulling up with at least seven patrol vehicles and confirming that Croxton wanted to pursue a prosecution, went into the house.

"I want to see hands!" an officer can be heard yelling in footage shot by the tenants, as cops with flashlights flush party-goers out from hiding places in the backyard. "Hands!"

"Oh my God, look at 'em all," a woman watching through a window says as people file out from a nook in a corner of the yard.

Croxton said that cops told him they arrested anyone at the party without identification and cited the rest for trespassing, and that the partygoers ranged in age from 13 to 21. A police report confirms one arrest, of a 19-year-old man with an address in Starrett City, and an NYPD spokeswoman said the department's press office would not have records of summonses. No one, it seems, fessed up to being Lester Moore.

The man arrested had a separate open trespassing case stemming from a February ticket for which he missed a court date. Court records show that he was arrested on a warrant for that charge the day the party was busted up, and a judge gave him an adjournment contemplating dismissal, meaning it will be dismissed as long as he avoids arrest for a certain period of time. The case stemming from the party arrest is sealed, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office.

The man did not respond to a call and a text message seeking comment.

The house was a wreck. There was, as Croxton put it, "pot everywhere," including on top of a Bob Marley record that had ended up in the next room from the record player. The turntable had a record in its sleeve jammed on top of it. "I think they were treating the record player almost like it was an 8-track," Croxton said. "I don’t think they knew how to work a record player." There were also credit cards, empty Hennessy bottles, counterfeit bills, bags of fronto for rolling weed, dice, and handkerchiefs.

This looks like as good a place to roll a blunt as any. (Gothamist)

A table and a shutter were broken. The back garden was torn up. A carpet was ruined. Part of a fence was torn down, possibly as part of someone's effort to get up a tree and to the roof.

Oh, and, "They made jello shots. Dozens of them were in the refrigerator," Croxton said. "There was a knife and a pair of panties on our bed. That was pretty interesting."

The NYPD's sweep of the house was not the end of Croxton's family's troubles. At around 4:30 a.m., he said, a tenant went out front to change the passcode on the front door, and a man came up and asked to be let inside, claiming he had left something there. The tenant wouldn't let him in, but he came back and banged on the door at 6 a.m., asking again to be let in, Croxton said.

A few hours later, a ladder that the tenant had seen propped against the house had migrated in the backyard—Croxton believes someone had successfully hidden from the cops inside and used the ladder to escape.

By Friday, Croxton and his wife had decided to cut their vacation short—they were supposed to be back Sunday—but on their way, their house was burglarized.

"It was the greatest trip we’d ever taken, and that was a lousy ending to it," Croxton said.

It's not clear how the burglar or burglars got in, though police suspect it was through a rear sliding door.

A police report lists only a stolen Xbox, but Croxton said the culprit(s) also snagged an Apple TV, iPhones, and other electronics, as well as liquor locked in a room, and keys to the entire house. Perhaps more disturbingly, a prowler pawed through a box of Croxton's wife's letters from high school and college, he said.

"They systematically went through every drawer in the house," Croxton said.

Party foul. (Gothamist)

Croxton said that between the stolen items and the damage, his family is set back nearly $7,000. Airbnb, while not fully disavowing responsibility, he said, is dragging its heels in helping. Representatives won't talk over the phone, he said, and emails take days to get responses. Further frustrating matters, the company wants receipts for each individual item he is claiming, which in many cases he doesn't have.

"Am I going to keep an invoice for a carpet that I bought at IKEA?" he asked, rhetorically. "They're trying to nickel-and-dime us. They're trying to wait us out."

Croxton said he has consulted a lawyer and determined that it would cost more to fight Airbnb than the amount lost. The negotiations are ongoing, and after some soul-searching, Croxton said he decided to share his story as a cautionary tale to those renting their homes through the company or considering doing so.

"I was really hesitant to go public with this, but then I was like, 'I’m doing a disservice to the citizens of New York by knowing something like this can happen'" and not saying anything, he said.

Indeed, for the last few years the company has made headlines when renters turned Airbnb pads into brothels, and used them for nightmarish house parties such as an infamous Hamptons "Sprayathon" rager, and a shindig in Queens where two people were shot.

Credit card scamming has grown in popularity among New York's gangs and street crews in recent years as a highly lucrative, lower-risk alternative or supplement to drug-selling.

Renting out a whole apartment for fewer than 30 days while the occupants are absent is illegal in New York City. One- and two-family homes are widely believed to be exceptions to this rule, including by city legislators debating new legislation to regulate the controversial short-term-rental industry. However, recent reporting by WNYC showed that the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement has written some 90 tickets to homeowners for short-term rentals since 2014, relying on a combination of rules that govern certificates of occupancy and what constitutes a rooming-house.

Airbnb spokesman Peter Schottenfels said that Croxton's case is extremely rare. According to Schottenfels, only 1 in 41,000 Airbnb bookings result in damage claims of over $1,000. The spokesman said further that the company is trying to do right by Croxton.

"We are working with the host to reimburse him for the damages under our $1 million Host Guarantee, and have banned this guest from the platform," he said.

It's not clear how the person who booked Croxton's apartment cleared Airbnb's registration process, logged four verifications of the Lester Moore identity, and successfully made the booking. The account was taken down immediately after the party, Croxton said. No one named Lester Moore appears in public phone listings for Seattle, but according to Airbnb, he is a real person who somehow managed to use pilfered credit card information. The company said it is reviewing how the transaction slipped through its payment system.

An NYPD spokeswoman said she had no information about an ongoing investigation into the fraud.