Accomplished Christchurch con artist Ann-Marie Smith loses name suppression fight

Ann-Marie Kathrine Smith, pictured here in 2013, admitted two charges of obtaining money by deception, totalling $3495, ...
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ

Ann-Marie Kathrine Smith, pictured here in 2013, admitted two charges of obtaining money by deception, totalling $3495, in the Christchurch District Court in January.

An accomplished con artist has lost a fight to keep her name secret after her High Court appeal fizzled.

Ann-Marie Kathrine Smith, a serial rent dodger and fraudster who uses aliases and sob stories, appeared briefly in the High Court at Christchurch on Tuesday morning. She spoke to her defence counsel and handed him some papers, but then left the courthouse before the hearing began.

Smith, also known as Anna-Ria Melroy, and Anne Marie Fraser Smith, can now be named as the woman who admitted two charges of obtaining money by deception from two women. In one case, she met a stranger at a bank and within a short period she convinced the woman to loan her $3000 after spinning a story of family misfortune.

The 30-year-old has previously received publicity for amassing more than $40,000 in rent arrears and bond money owed to several Christchurch landlords, including Housing New Zealand, in the five years to 2016.

The Linwood mother admitted two charges of obtaining money by deception, totalling $3495, in the Christchurch District Court in January. When she realised there would be media coverage, she unsuccessfully applied for name suppression.

She filed her own papers appealing to the High Court, meaning suppression applied until her appeal case was heard.

At a High Court appeal hearing earlier this month, Smith's new lawyer said had not heard from his client, but that there could be grounds for suppression because of extreme hardship to a family member. The case was adjourned to Tuesday. It was the case's second delay.

On Tuesday the lawyer, Glenn Henderson, told Justice Nick Davidson he had not heard from Smith during the adjournment. He said he expected Smith to provide him with relevant documents from the Canterbury District Health Board, Hillmorton Hospital, her doctor and Child Youth and Family, but she had not done so.

He asked for another adjournment to give Smith a further chance to present her suppression application.

His Honour said he did not believe the evidence, if it was provided, would meet the "extreme hardship" criteria that would allow for a suppression order.

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"Even the indication now given by Mr Henderson doesn't demonstrate there is any substance in this appeal whatsoever and for that reason it is dismissed," he said.

A HOUSE FIRE AND FAMILY DEATHS

In court in January, police said the woman was in Kiwibank's New Brighton branch on December 18, 2015 when she approached the victim, who was at a counter addressing mail.

The woman said she urgently needed money, but the bank would not give her a loan because she had no identification. She said her identification had been burnt in a house fire, which had badly burnt one of her two children, and gave the victim a fictitious address.

She also said her grandmother and mother had recently died, while her father died in the 2011 earthquake.

She told the victim she had found another house, but had spent her last $500 on the bond and the landlord required another $2300.

Police said: "The victim took pity on her and said she would give her the money. She went to the counter and withdrew $3000 cash to cover the bond and food and gave it to the defendant."

The woman said she would repay the victim on Christmas Eve when her inheritance would come through.

On December 20, the woman told the victim she would repay her "in a few days". More than a year on, the victim had received no money.

When spoken to by police, the woman confirmed she had been at the bank and the victim had given her $3000, but that the victim had lied. She said she intended to repay the money.

On March 11, 2016, the woman went to another victim's Woolston house, where the victim gave her a cheque for $495 to pay for a trip to the Cook Islands.

The woman cashed the cheque, but bought no holiday. Instead, she paid the money to associates. The victim has not heard from her since. When interviewed by the police, the defendant said she was embarrassed as what she had done was wrong.

Smith is on bail and is due to be sentenced on the fraud charges on April 12.

 - Stuff

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