Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Mystery fraudster living the 'high life'

The fraudster has been captured on CCTV footage.
The fraudster has been captured on CCTV footage.

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 stolen rental car.

The unidentified man is suspected in 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 concerning scheme, the man was alleged to be befriending tourists around Taupo and Tauranga, and promising them bogus casual jobs in seafood factories in exchange for finder's fee.

Police are hunting this mystery fraudster.
Police are hunting this mystery fraudster.

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, 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".

"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."

In another case, the suspect had stolen a rental car from a Mt Maunganui 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.

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."

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.

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