A con artist with a green thumb has been scamming his way through the North Island and has left at least three Waikato residents hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
The man, identified by victims as Nigel Wright, has allegedly fleeced a Hamilton resident of more than $1000 after promising to do gardening work, dashed from a Te Rapa motor inn owing more than $300, and taken off with a Taupo man's car - all in the past six weeks.
There has also been a report of Wright operating a similar rort in the Kapiti Coast, where he cheated an 86-year-old woman out of $1000 after he promised to do tiling work, but didn't.
Hamilton resident Anna Zhang contacted the Waikato Times after she was duped by Wright, who she had met while he was working at a friend's property, last week.
Zhang was quoted $2200 to clean up her Chartwell garden and lay weed mat and pebbles on March 19.
Wright demanded a 50 per cent deposit for the work and told Zhang he would return at 5pm to collect it.
"He then came back at 4pm and I didn't have any money. He said: ‘How much do you have now?'
"I gave him $120 and US$400."
Wright returned the next morning for the the rest of the retainer and was given $550, which he claimed was needed for materials, she said.
But despite promising to start work later that day, he never returned and Zhang sought him out that evening at BJ's Budget Motor Inn in Te Rapa, where he was staying.
"I talked to Nigel and said: ‘I can't trust you anymore, I want the money back."'
But she was told the money was gone.
The motel's owner, Graham Roigard, said Wright - who had arrived the previous week from Taupo with his partner - returned to the hotel "full of booze" the night after he was paid by Zhang.
"I sort of questioned him where the hell he'd been, because people had been ringing me looking for him.
"I said: ‘I don't want anything more to do with you, you've just become a prized idiot'."
Roigard told him to leave and early the next morning, on March 22, he did a runner, owing more than $300.
"He's scamming his way through the country," he said.
Taupo resident Steven Bieniowski said he, too, had been cheated by Wright.
Bieniowski, 46, met the Wright at Finn MacCuhal's Irish Pub in Taupo about five weeks ago.
"He said he was an earthquake victim, he'd lost the house, car, everything, and he had a job in Taupo.
"He was really desperate for a car and I had a Nissan Sentra I was using, but was going to sell at some stage."
Bieniowski said Wright seemed nice and was "a smooth talker" so he decided to help him out. "He gave me $100 [for the car] and he said he was going to pay me $150 a week, but that was the last I saw him."
Victims of Wright have described him as about 65 years old and pakeha, and said they had reported him to police.
- Waikato Times