Hunt begins for scammer suspect

By Jamie Morton, Amy McGillivray

CCTV footage of an alleged scam artist. Among other things, the man allegedly offered fake jobs and sold a rental car for cash.
CCTV footage of an alleged scam artist. Among other things, the man allegedly offered fake jobs and sold a rental car for cash.

Police are hunting a mystery fraudster they say has been living the "high life" after making dodgy hotel bookings, ripping off tourists after promising jobs and selling a rental car.

The unidentified man is suspected of committing several cunning schemes over recent days around the Western Bay of Plenty and Taupo.

Police are now dealing with a dozen victims and losses running into the thousands.

In the most worrying scheme, the man was apparently befriending tourists around Taupo and promising them bogus casual jobs in seafood factories in exchange for a finder's fee.

The man had elicited further money from victims by claiming they needed cellphones and iPads for the fake jobs, and one tourist had lost $1500.

Some hotel and motel owners had also been caught out by the man. They included two Tauranga hotels and apartments, after he pre-booked accommodation using fake company emails, said Detective Sergeant Darryl Brazier of Mt Maunganui CIB.

The scam was not realised until the owners sent the account payments to the email addresses, which were "legitimate email addresses but they are not the business addresses they purport to be".

The man also used names of real employees of the company.

"He comes across as a very believable and plausible character," Mr Brazier said.

"He regularly uses stories, such as his mother has recently died or is extremely ill, and tries to obtain sympathy from them.

"He's coming up with all sorts of sob stories."

In another case, the suspect had stolen a white Nissan Tiida from a Mt Maunganui rental car agency and then sold it to an unsuspecting buyer in a cash deal. The buyer who was told "all sorts of reasons" why the money could not be paid into an account only discovered it was reported stolen after attempting to register it.

"I'd say he's no stranger to this. He certainly has a lot of confidence in his offending," Mr Brazier said. "He's putting a lot of thought and time into his offending."

Mr Brazier said there may well be other cases police are unaware of.

"There are a number of crimes starting to tally up and obviously need to get our hands on this guy before he rips other people off," he said.

Kris Stamatakos, of the Tauranga Motel Association, said moteliers had been warned about the recent spate of dodgy dealings.

"Motels should just take credit card details, regardless of if it's a company, and verify it," he said. "It's the one thing that a lot of motels don't do.

The man, who has been caught on CCTV footage in downtown Mount Maunganui and in a local hotel, is described as being Maori, of a medium or stocky build and about 1.8m tall. He has short black hair with a receding hairline, missing front teeth and tattoos on his left forearm. People who could help identify the man were asked to phone Detective Sergeant Darryl Brazier on 07 577 4300.

Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 11.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 02 Sep 2014 21:56:19 Processing Time: 1056ms