B&B conned by 'convincing' guest

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 07:31 28/02/2014

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A bed-and-breakfast owner is "gutted" after a customer defrauded him out of $470.

Tresco B&B proprietor Ian Andrews said the man used an internet banking scam to steal the money from his business account on Monday.

He also stole a small amount of cash from the Eltham Rd business and a gold-plated Faberge egg during his weekend stay.

Mr Andrews said the man referred to himself as Tony Martin and claimed he had been airlifted from Queen Charlotte Track to Nelson Hospital after a tramping accident.

Last Thursday, he phoned Henry Maxwell's Central Lodge B&B in Blenheim, claiming he had been discharged from Nelson Hospital after surgery and needed a place to stay.

With no vacancies to spare, owners Diana and Graham Westenra referred him to another bed-and-breakfast. Concerned for his welfare, Mr Westenra phoned the B&B to check he was OK but he had failed to turn up.

He reappeared at the lodge on Saturday asking for accommodation and was driven to Tresco B&B, which had a vacancy.

Mr Andrews said the man claimed he had collapsed in Blenheim and been taken to Wairau Hospital.

"When he arrived he was very convincing. He showed me a large scar on his stomach. When he walked he held his stomach and said it was very sore.

"He didn't have any luggage with him. He said a doctor would deliver it to the B&B when he knocked off duty . . . He kept fabricating stories. He didn't make a lot of sense."

The man stayed on Saturday and Sunday. It was on Monday that Mr Andrews discovered money had been taken from his account and the family trinket was missing.

"He said when he was in hospital his credit card had been zapped. On Saturday he went down the town to do internet banking and said the money would go into my account."

Mr Andrews said he produced a Kiwibank transaction receipt under his name that looked "polished and professional" but instead of depositing the $270 B&B bill he stole $470 from his account.

"I am pretty gutted. I was very vulnerable to such a scam. These people prey on the generous. I will not let it happen again. I treat people at face value as honest people, I won't be so liberal in the future."

Wairau Hospital associate director of nursing Sue Allen confirmed no patient under the name of Tony Martin had been treated at the hospital.

She said no B&Bs or backpackers were on the Safe Haven list for discharged patients.

Police confirmed they were investigating.

The Westenras said this was not the first time they had been contacted by people claiming to be discharged patients or a hospital representative requesting accommodation.

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Mrs Westenra said three weeks ago, a man calling himself Rob said he was an Australian tourist on a motorcycling holiday in the South Island. He claimed he had fallen off his bike and had been admitted to Wairau Hospital.

"He said the hospital had kicked him out," she said. "He asked if we could put him up. We couldn't and I referred him to another B&B. He didn't turn up. I texted him but I never heard back."

Last week, she said, they received a call at 9.30pm from a woman claiming to be from the hospital requesting them to put up a discharged patient.

Blenheim B&B co-ordinator Wendy Mein said that, in her nearly 14-year career, she had not received a call from a discharged patient or hospital representative in Blenheim requesting a bed.

- The Marlborough Express

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