Charming, clever fake Pita Edwards jailed

Last updated 13:29 28/03/2014
Pita Edwards
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
PITA EDWARDS: Began reoffending again soon after being released from prison on dishonesty charges.

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Wellington's "catch-me-if-you-can" conman has been jailed for five years and three months.

Pita Phillip Edwards, who wore a stethoscope to look like he belonged at Wellington Hospital, was a charming and clever man who wanted to live the high life, Wellington District Court heard today.

Edwards, 26, had only just been released from prison on November 11 last year after a jail term for dishonesty when he began offending again, a police summary of facts said.

He then spent nine of his 16 days of freedom talking his way into exclusive premises around Wellington and even tried to crack a safe.

According to a police summary of facts, Edwards' conned his way into a Wellington medical school, and burgled Victoria University and the Internal Affairs Department - which he even billed for his takeaways.

Police caught up with him when he tried to bank a cheque made out in the name of a prominent lawyer.

Edwards talked his way into a locker room at the Otago School of Medicine where he took a student's credit cards and a stethoscope.

He attracted suspicion when he was later spotted by a Corrections officer at Wellington Hospital wearing the stethoscope.

He was also caught on security cameras at the Department of Internal Affairs during a weekend-long burglary. He also found time to burgle Victoria University's Law School, the police summary said.

Edwards used a master key to get into a university book shop where he tried to break into a safe, and also used the key to access the university's Kelburn campus, resulting in more than 350 locks having to be replaced at a cost of about $30,000.

His lawyer Philippa Sullivan called him clever, charming and very good company who lived hedonistically from the proceeds of his burglaries.

She said Edwards' mother died young and he became institutionalised at a young age after being in care.

When Edwards had been released from prison last year he felt overwhelmed, felt he had a lack of support and began the offending, taking things he felt he had been denied in prison.

"He spent the proceeds on things like legal highs, living high, a hedonistic lifestyle that others enjoyed with him," she said.

Wellington District Court judge Denys Barry said Edwards was an intelligent man who had the potential to do many things if he committed to living a law-abiding life.

However he said Edwards had first served an apprenticeship in the youth court before earning 63 convictions in the adult court for burglaries, dishonesty and deception charges.

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Edwards had told a probation officer he had committed the offences to get back into prison.

"Some part of you is broken, you cannot function properly in society at the moment," Judge Barry told him.

He ordered Edwards to serve half the sentence.

Edwards' ability to talk his way into exclusive premises prompted police to label him a "catch-me-if-you-can" criminal, in the style of American trickster Frank Abagnale.

- Stuff

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