Online conman ordered to repay victims

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 12:00 17/01/2014

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A Palmerston North man who used a Facebook page, which police say is operated as a black market for stolen-to-order goods, to fleece people of thousands of dollars has had all his fines cancelled, so his money can go towards his victims.

James Dean Wright, 24, conned money out of people for six months by offering iPhones on a Hustle Live page on Facebook.

Police have said the Hustle Live pages and copycats have been used to sell a wide variety of products, including stolen vehicles, cut-price cosmetics and firearms.

Palmerston North acting Senior Sergeant Phil Ward has previously said deals that used to be done out of car boots are now conducted online.

Between April and September, Wright netted six victims and $2750 online. He would communicate with his victims via Facebook until they deposited money into his account, then cease all contact.

If they ever found him, he would say the goods were on the way and they were trying to swindle him.

Some asked for track and trace numbers, something Wright got around by giving them fake numbers.

During Wright's sentencing in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, defence lawyer Mike Andrews said Wright had worked as a chef in some of the top restaurants in the country before his offending.

He had moved to Palmerston North and worked at a restaurant but lost his job.

He was out of work and had started taking legal highs when the offending took place, Mr Andrews said.

"Perhaps he should have looked for work elsewhere but he stayed here and things started to deteriorate."

It was during that time Wright also harassed his ex-partner by cellphone, saying she would be admitted to a mental ward and the like. She tried to block his number but he kept on harassing her.

That led to him being charged with improper use of a telephone, on which he was also sentenced yesterday, along with two charges of breaching community work.

Judge Gregory Ross said Wright had misled and deceived during his offending, as well as breaching the buyers' trust.

In a victim impact statement, one buyer said they felt embarrassed about the situation. "I was conned and he was good at doing what he did," the statement said.

Judge Ross said Wright had more than $5000 in fines, which he would cancel so money could instead be paid to the victims.

He sentenced Wright to 300 hours of community work and ordered him to repay all the money he had stolen.

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- Manawatu Standard

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