Conman tricks trusting gay-friendly lodges

By Kathryn Powley

Julia Woodhouse was among those charmed. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Julia Woodhouse was among those charmed. Photo / Kellie Blizard

A smooth-talking con-artist has been sweeping through gay-friendly lodges, regaling the owners and guests with stories of wealth and success before disappearing with thousands of dollars of debt.

The man who goes by various names - including Sam Palmer, David Palmer and David Carol - and claims to be a personal chef to the stars, has charmed his way into the lives of members of the Gay Stay NZ network, then left without paying, prompting organiser Bruce Morrison to issue a warning.

His methods mirror that of TV hunk James Marsden's character Barry on Modern Family in which he beguiles gay couple Mitchell and Cam with tall tales while cadging food, accommodation and time in the hot tub.

The Kiwi conman is described as about 40, with short black hair, bad teeth, "feminine in speech and demeanour", about 1.82m tall with a tattoo on the back of his neck which he tended to cover with scarves.

Dale Pullen, who runs La Belle Maison in Ruakaka, south of Whangarei, with his partner David Graham, said the slim Maori man, was "pretty cunning".

He claimed to have been a private chef for the band Cold Play. He'd entered into talks to take over the lease on a local cafe, and had arranged long-term accommodation nearby. His Ruakaka hosts had taken him fishing and let him cook them dinner.

But they'd contacted police after he paid for three nights but stayed for six. The couple was left about $2000 out of pocket when he disappeared after they left for work. A computer, camera, cash, cheques and medicine were missing.

Another victim was Julia Woodhouse, who runs the Black Sands Lodge in Piha, west of Auckland, with her partner Bobbie Carroll.

He arrived May 28 and paid for two nights in cash.

"He is very likeable and charming, very warm and he has great stories to spin about being a private chef. He told us he had been working in Kenya on Stefanie Powers' reserve for five years." He'd returned to a chef's job in Parnell but that hadn't worked out, he'd said.

Among his tales were the numerous properties he said he owned with his former Greek "husband" and how messy their split had been.

He'd decided to stay longer and contracted to rent one of their cottages for five months but disappeared after two days owing $350. In his room he'd left a stolen credit card - she knows it was stolen because she contacted the owner, a Waiheke accommodation provider.

"It has made me realise how trusting I am," she said.

- Herald on Sunday

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