Couple feel cheated after paying over odds

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2013
Art fraud
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

RIPPED OFF: Nadia Thompson and Mark Anderson with artwork they bought from two people selling door-to-door.

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A Christchurch couple are feeling "a bit sheepish" after being conned into paying hundreds of dollars for cheap, mass-produced artwork.

Several other Cantabrians say they have been taken in by the scam.

St Albans residents Mark Anderson and fiancee Nadia Thompson bought two paintings just before Christmas from two people claiming to be representing local artists.

Anderson said he was suspicious of door-to-door salespeople, but the artwork seemed to be of good quality.

The sellers, a man and woman who were both foreigners, were very convincing, he said.

"The guy was a very, very smooth talker. Both were quite down to earth and charming," he said.

They left cellphone numbers, but calls to them by The Press went unanswered yesterday.

The couple paid $340 cash for the two paintings.

Anderson and Thompson were so taken in that they recommended the pair to a friend, who also bought some.

They realised they had been conned when they searched for similar artwork online and were shocked to stumble on their purchases on Alibaba.com for US$15 each.

Anderson said he felt "a bit sheepish" about the ruse.

"We're upset about it, but at the end of the day we don't think we'll get our money back," he said.

"We're still happy with the paintings, just p..... off we paid so much."

Burwood resident Marian Tredinnick was also taken in last year when she bought one painting from a man who said he was from Israel.

She and her husband paid about $140.

"We're going to have to look at this thing and we'll probably laugh about it. We've certainly learnt from it. Nobody will get in my door again."

Tredinnick said the salesman was "charismatic".

Acting Inspector Glenn Nalder said police were talking to two people about similar incidents involving artwork.

"[On Tuesday night] police caught up with a pair in the Cashmere area. Inquiries are continuing in relation to the man and woman spoken to, and we have not ruled out charging the pair."

He said the ruse usually involved people passing paintings off as their own work.

"These groups have been active in Christchurch recently."

Obtaining by deception was punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, he said.

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