Fugitive laid a complaint with police

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:30 27/06/2014
Fraudster's car
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THE CAR: Police believe fraud suspects Paul Bennett and Simone Wright are driving this silver Subaru Forester.

Fraud suspects
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WANTED: Paul James Bennett, right, and his partner, Simone Anne Wright.

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A man sought in connection with an alleged $250,000 helicopter company rip-off made a theft complaint to police while wanted in relation to an alleged sexual assault.

He is also believed to have set up a bank account in Nelson using an alias.

A $35,000 Rolex watch went missing from outside Paul James Bennett's last known address in Middleton, Christchurch, in October last year. The expensive timepiece had been left on a doorstep by a courier because nobody was home.

A theft complaint was lodged with police by a man who said he was acting on behalf of Dave Kite, one of Bennett's many aliases, in January, a source says.

Police acknowledged the complaint in an email in March. It is understood they were provided with the name of a potential suspect. Canterbury district investigations manager Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald declined to comment about the complaint.

Also, one of Bennett's aliases was used to set up an account at a Nelson ASB branch.

A spokesman for the bank said anyone wanting to set up an account required a valid driver's licence or passport, an active mobile phone number, and proof that they were living at a New Zealand address.

"We are aware of this case, which is now in the hands of the police," he said. "We have done, and continue to do, everything we can to assist the police."

Bennett, 51, and his partner Simone Anne Wright, 37, had been living at the $900-a-week, three-bedroom rental property in Christchurch until they told their landlord they were going on holiday early last month.

A multimillionaire helicopter company owner said he spoke with Bennett on May 6 and queried him about invoices he suspected had been digitally manipulated. Police made a public appeal for information about the couple in connection with an ongoing fraud investigation on June 7.

Fitzgerald said investigators believed the couple were still in the country and may have visited Dunedin, Nelson and Auckland in the last month.

They were likely to be driving a silver 2004 Subaru Forester, registration FBF999.

There is also a warrant for Bennett and Wright's arrest in relation to an alleged sexual assault on a teenage girl in the late 2000s.

Detectives have acknowledged that the couple came to their attention some years ago, but they have been unable to locate them.

An investigation by The Press has found that police may have come face to face with the couple several times in Australia and New Zealand in recent years.

They have spent time living in fully furnished rental properties in Nelson, Wanaka and Christchurch since 2011.

The couple traded in Rolex watches online and often through Trade Me.

The helicopter company owner said Bennett, using the alias Dave Kite, was contracted by it to find helicopters and parts overseas. He allegedly fabricated and inflated invoices for items he had supposedly bought, and was reimbursed by the company, the businessman said.

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Bennett was born in Waikato and has a long reported history of eluding police. Documents reveal he changed his name by deed poll to Paul John Williams.

He once talked his way into becoming the helicopter pilot for Hollywood actor Russell Crowe.

However, he was later found to not have a pilot's licence.

The helicopter company's owner has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Wright and Bennett's arrest.

- The Press

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