Helicopter rip-off suspects switch cars
A couple sought in connection with an alleged $250,000 helicopter company rip-off are still in New Zealand and may have visited cities across the country in the past three weeks, police believe.
However, Paul James Bennett, 51, and his partner Simone Anne Wright, 37, are no longer driving a silver BMW, registration GGN840, police say.
Canterbury district investigations manager Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald said there had been 10 reported sightings of the car, but inquiries revealed it had been sold.
Police now believed Bennett and Wright were driving a silver Subaru Forester, registration FBF999.
They may have been in Dunedin, Auckland and Nelson in the past three weeks, Fitzgerald said.
There was no reason to believe Bennett and Wright had left the country. The couple used multiple aliases and could therefore be using "any name", Fitzgerald said.
Three police staff were working full-time on the inquiry and others were being deployed as required.
The couple's former landlord said Bennett and Wright lived at a $900-a-week, three-bedroom rental property in Middleton, Christchurch until they told her they were going on holiday early last month.
A multi-millionaire helicopter company owner said he spoke to Bennett on May 6 and queried him about invoices he suspected had been digitally manipulated.
Using the alias David Kite, Bennett was contracted by the company to find several helicopters and other parts overseas, the owner said.
He then allegedly fabricated and inflated invoices for items he had supposedly bought and was reimbursed by the company, the wealthy businessman said.