Investigators uncover more than 2,100 images in growing Hill Country hidden camera case

A. Jay Allee, 54, facing 15 charges of invasive visual recording after couple discovered hidden camera

Kendall County, Texas – More than 2,100 images, many of which show people in various states of undress, have been recovered from a computer belonging to a Kendall County man accused of recording guests without their knowledge inside the bedroom of his Hill Country rental cabin.

Details from the growing criminal and civil cases against A. Jay Allee, 54, were obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders from arrest warrants and a lawsuit filed late last year that accuses Allee of invasion of privacy and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Allee now faces 15 charges of invasive visual recording after additional charges were filed against him last month, according to a Kendall County Sheriff’s investigator.

Allee, through his defense attorney, said he is innocent of the charges.

‘A real life scary movie.’

Until last summer, Allee’s Cielito Lindo Ranch cabin located on a secluded hill in Comfort was described as a quaint, quiet and safe Hill Country vacation spot.

Allee, according to the civil suit filed Dec. 1 in Kendall County, had attained the status of being both an Airbnb Superhost and a VRBO Premier Host.

“Which adds an extra layer in our client’s opinion of that protection, that this is a safe, reputable location to stay,” said attorney Roger Bresnahan, referring to the online lodging websites.

Bresnahan and fellow attorney Bianca Zuniga-Goldwater now represent 17 people who stayed at the cabin and were potentially victimized by Allee, who is accused of recording guests on a hidden camera made to look like a power adapter for a router.

Attorneys Roger Bresnahan and Bianca Zuniga-Goldwater. (KSAT)

The surreptitious piece of equipment, which can be purchased on hidden camera websites for under $130, is believed to have been in place for nine months or longer. It was first discovered in July by a couple from the Midwest staying at the cabin.

“It’s a real life scary movie. It’s not like these clients of ours went on the classifieds and found a random property, posted by this faceless person to stay at,” Zuniga-Goldwater said. “They went through what they thought were these safe, huge premier hosting companies that vet these great properties.”

A warrant for Allee’s arrest indicates that the couple first became suspicious of Allee after he suggested that they watch the sunrise from the cabin’s porch while in their pajamas or nude.

While the woman was later showering, the man noticed the AC power adapter facing the bed, according to the warrant.

“Upon further inspection, John (Doe) realized that the box was a small camera and recording device wired into the wall and facing the direction of the bed in which they were to sleep that night,” the suit states.

Man arrested after secretly videotaping guests at Hill Country vacation rental home, Kendall County Sheriff’s Office says

The couple, who is listed in the civil suit as John and Jane Doe, fled from the property after discovering the camera and later filed a criminal complaint with the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s investigators moved quickly in the case, executing a search warrant at the cabin and Allee’s nearby home July 8, a day after first receiving the criminal complaint.

Investigators seized the hidden camera, the fake router it was attached to and six electronic devices belonging to Allee, including laptops, an iPad and iPhones, according to a warrant for Allee’s arrest.

The Cielito Lindo Ranch rental cabin on Saddle Wood Trail in Comfort. (KSAT)

The devices were later turned over to an agent with the United States Department of Homeland Security, the warrant states.

In early October, investigators received a November 2020 Instagram video review of the cabin, which appeared to show the router and AC power adapter configured in almost the exact same way they were found the day of the seizure, indicating that the camera was installed there for at least nine months.

Later that month, investigators uncovered 2,126 thumbnail images from videos that had been on Allee’s seized computers, the warrant states.

“It’s frightening how many people are victims of this, this intrusion,” said Bresnahan, who pointed out that some victims recorded by the device were captured having sex.

The images, all of which showed the inside of the cabin bedroom, included adult males and females clothed, partially undressed, naked or involved in sexual conduct, the warrant states.

The thumbnails also included images of Allee placing the recording device in multiple locations in the bedroom, according to the warrant.

A KCSO investigator did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this story.

Allee ‘looks forward to his day in court’

Allee is free on bond awaiting indictment. His civil attorney referred all inquiries from the Defenders to his criminal defense team, which includes former Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood.

“His claim to us is that he’s innocent. And so, he maintains he’s innocent. He looks forward to his day in court,” said LaHood, who added that Allee’s legal team has only been given access to limited information from the case because his client has still not been indicted.

“It’s been tremendous. Him and his wife are dealing with it the way they’re dealing with it in his family, and it’s a process. I told him, ‘look, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and so you have to have some stamina.’ And he’s building up for it,” said LaHood.

Allee's criminal defense attorney Nico LaHood. (KSAT)

LaHood took issue with the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office’s decision to repeatedly take Allee into custody as additional charges have been tacked on.

“It’s piecemealing, is what it looks like to us. It looks like it’s piecemealing,” said LaHood.

LaHood said he was previously unaware of text messages included in the lawsuit allegedly sent by Allee last year to the man who discovered the hidden camera in the bedroom and reported Allee to law enforcement.

The texts, described as “threats” by the man’s attorney, included one message from Allee in which he accuses the victim of placing the camera in the bedroom himself.

In another message Allee said he will be forced to take steps to protect his “family from extortion and fraud.”

“It will cost you 100,000 to defend my law suit because we will not let this attempt to extort us go unpunished,” a third message states.

Lasting emotional impact

Bresnahan said the additional clients who have signed with his law firm will eventually be added as intervenors to the civil suit against Allee. Airbnb and VRBO could be added as defendants in the Allee suit or even named in a separate suit for allegedly failing to vet Allee properly, he added.

VRBO officials did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

A spokesman for Airbnb, the website used to book the cabin for the stay during which the hidden camera was found, released a written statement condemning Allee’s behavior.

“On our platform, we strictly ban hidden cameras. The reported criminal behavior of this bed-and-breakfast owner is outrageous, and he and his property are banned from Airbnb. Our law enforcement operations team has been working to support the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office in their investigation,” said Ben Breit via email.

Bresnahan and Zuniga-Goldwater said the number of victims will continue to grow and that clients they now represent are grappling with emotional distress after learning they were recorded by the camera.

“Some have gone to counseling. Others are completely distraught, paranoid, sleepless nights, travel anxiety,” said Bresnahan.

“We have a client that traveled over Christmas and she said she was completely paranoid. She was checking all the nooks and crannies. She would only change if all the lights were turned off. Just think, getting the call months later from the sheriff’s department saying, ‘could you come in and possibly identify yourself? There was a video in the room that you stayed in.’ And you come across these pictures of yourself. That would be devastating,” said Zuniga-Goldwater.


About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.