Ramsey County deputies make 'disturbing' discovery during Airbnb bust

Ramsey County law enforcement officials said what started out as a plan to catch a credit card thief led them to a "disturbing and dangerous" discovery at an Airbnb in Maple Grove.

Images shared by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office show 11 guns found at a home in Maple Grove, including stashed in board games and a McDonald’s bag.

"The guns were in backpacks, purses, above the furnace, in the walls, behind couches," said Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher. "This is the fourth Airbnb incident involving guns. We had three here in St. Paul. We had one in Roseville."

Finding the weapons actually started with the search for a 17-year-old suspect from St. Paul. Deputies said the repeat juvenile offender stole credit cards from a car in Shoreview last week and used them at Target.

Deputies learned the teen's mom had reserved an Airbnb in Maple Grove Saturday night for his birthday party, so they staked out the home. More than 50 people between the ages of 15 and 21 were inside, along with alcohol and marijuana. Deputies have had contact with most of the party attendees before because they belong to a group that's been involved in auto thefts, carjackings and shootings the last two years.

"One of their members was knifed and killed at Harding High School," Fletcher said.

The sheriff said the most unusual and troubling part of the Maple Grove incident is seven of the guns recovered had what's known as a "switch" or "auto sear," which allows them to fire fully automatic. Possession of a switch is a state and federal offense.

"An extended magazine of 33 rounds, which many of these guns had extended magazines, can be fired in two seconds or less," he explained.

The 17-year-old fraud suspect was arrested. At the time, he was out on bail for previous credit card fraud from August. He's been booked in the juvenile detention center on the new credit card fraud charge and for violating the conditions of his release.

More party attendees could be charged if authorities can match fingerprints or DNA on the guns. Fletcher believes the weapons were involved in other recent crimes, including a shooting at a St. Paul cemetery.

St. Paul police are working hard to find answers for the friends and family of those affected by the shooting at the cemetery, and those answers, as well as firearm testing, take time. It is an open and active investigation.

"There were 130 casings found at the Oakland Cemetery shooting. We believe these guns were probably used in that shooting," Fletcher said.

The crime is also further proof to Fletcher that suspects from the cities are bringing their parties and illegal activities to the suburbs in jurisdictions where they’re not known to law enforcement. 

He encouraged citizens to call 911 when they see something suspicious in their neighborhoods. 

"There was a citizen that saw [the 17-year-old] breaking into the car that started this whole cycle for us. So, the good news is if citizens call when they see things suspicious, we never know where that case is going go, and in this case, it went to 11 guns," Fletcher said.

In a statement, Airbnb said, "Unauthorized and disruptive parties are banned on Airbnb, and our Safety team has removed the booking guest from the platform. We are supporting our Host, including through AirCover, and we stand ready to assist the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office as they investigate."