High-profile immigration attorney Aaron Elinoff is the latest person to be charged by the Denver District Attorney's Office for allegedly violating the city's short-term-rental rules, following similar accusations lodged against Alexander and Stacy Neir, a couple from Stapleton, last month.
Elinoff is facing one count of attempting to influence a public servant by making a false statement in a signed and notarized affidavit related to his primary residence. The offense is a Class 4 felony, which boasts a sentencing range of two to six years in prison and/or fines of $2,000 to $500,000.
Over the past few months, Westword has published three posts that included references to Elinoff, who has not responded to a call for comment at this writing. In March, Elinoff noted that just one medical doctor was assigned to the Aurora ICE Processing Center. The next month, he was highlighted in a report about cannabis-industry workers being denied citizenship. And on May 10, we covered a pardon request for ICE detainee Henry Cruz Moreno, one of his clients.
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The arrest affidavit naming Elinoff is accessible below. Over the course of five pages, it details how he submitted an application for a short-term-rental license to Denver Excise and Licenses stating that his primary residence was 641 North Raleigh Street. Because his driver's license listed another address (3136 Larimer Street) as his address, the claim raised a red flag. Note that a key passage from Denver's short-term-rental ordinance reads: "Primary residence means a residence which is the usual place of return for housing as documented by at least two of the following: motor vehicle registration, driver's license, Colorado state identification card, voter registration, tax documents, or a utility bill. A person can only have one primary residence."
According to the document, further investigation revealed that Elinoff's actual address was 1316 North Tennyson — hence the assertion about a false statement in regard to the North Raleigh Street abode.
When asked about whether the two recent indictments indicate a new push on the part of the Denver DA's office in regard to short-term rentals, spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler notes that "as Excise and Licenses has questions and concerns about the notarized affidavits people are signing, they look into them. If there are concerns about impropriety, they'll bring those to our attention. We'll then take a look and proceed accordingly, as we would on any other issue."
Eric Escudero, director of communications for Excise and Licenses, adds more detail.
Enforcement "isn't new as far as making sure people are aware of the short-term-rental rules in Denver," Escudero says. "But we're also trying to get people in compliance, so they understand what they're required to do. You just have to follow the rules, which were put in place to protect the integrity of neighborhoods."
Escudero reveals that "one of the most common complaints we get at Denver Excise and Licenses is about short-term rentals. We get an average of about three a week, because oftentimes people will spend a lot of money to buy a house and then discover that they have a hotel next door — a hotel called a short-term rental. There may be problems, like noise that disrupts the neighborhood. So this is one area where we've really tried to respond to the people of Denver, who want to make sure their neighborhoods maintain their integrity."
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The rollout of short-term-rental rules in 2017 has been a success thus far, in Escudero's view. As of today, there are 2,673 active short-term-rental licenses in the city, down slightly from the all-time high of 2,707 on June 24. The current compliance rate is 76.2 percent — a bit lower than the top mark of 77.3 percent, also on June 24, but a lot higher than in most other major cities, some of which have filed lawsuits against Airbnb, still the best-known short-term-rental business.
The licensing compliance rate for short-term rentals in Denver has risen 25 percent from July 2018 to July 2019, Escudero estimates, even as the number of active licenses has increased 24 percent over the same period.
"Our goal is not to see people get in trouble with the law or restrict them from being able to use their property how they want to," he insists. "We just want to make sure they're following the rules."