An unsuspecting traveller was duped into handing over car keys to a fake rental car attendant, who then made off with a brand new hired Holden.
The thief was posing as a car hire worker at Wellington Airport on July 13, going as far as donning a high-visibility jacket to impersonate a staff member.
He then waited in the rental car parking area for a customer to arrive.
Sources have told The Dominion Post the customer was a court judge.
As the judge arrived to return the car - a 2012 SV6 Holden Commodore - the fake worker approached him and boldly "obtained" the keys, police say.
But instead of returning the car to rental firm Avis, he left the airport and drove 107 kilometres to Masterton.
It is not known whether the victim knew the car had been stolen.
Acting Senior Sergeant Rob Rackliff, of Wairarapa police, said the car was found on Thursday after police visited a Hessey St address in Masterton.
A 24-year-old Masterton woman was arrested and charged with receiving the stolen car. She is due to appear in Masterton District Court next week.
However, police are still searching for the man believed to have taken the car from the airport.
The car was in good condition when found, Mr Rackliff said.
"It looks absolutely fine except for maybe a few scratches.
"We've informed the owners and we'll be arranging to get it back to them."
According to Holden's website, SV6 Commodores have a starting price tag of $45,000.
Avis national operations director Arifin Yudha said he was aware the car had been stolen. But he said it was company policy not to comment on criminal matters.
"We're just waiting to get the car back," he said.
According to the company's website, the car would have cost about $80 a day to hire, based on a $559 seven-day rental.
A Wellington Airport spokeswoman would not comment, other than to say they were assisting police with the investigation.
A Consumer Affairs Ministry spokesman said it was unlikely the customer would be penalised for failing to ensure the car was returned. "It really does sound like a criminal matter if someone's stolen the car.
"It would probably come down to the contract that the customer has with the rental car company, and the person would have had insurance as well . . . so it could fall back on the insurance contract."
- © Fairfax NZ News