Hunted fraudster couple in Nelson?

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 12:58 19/06/2014

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A couple alleged to have ripped off a helicopter company for $250,000 may have visited Nelson recently.

Paul James Bennett, 51, and his partner Simone Anne Wright, 37, are wanted by police in relation to a fraud investigation.

Canterbury district investigations manager Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald said the couple may have been in Nelson in the past three weeks. However, Fitzgerald would not confirm how police came to this conclusion as it may jeopardise the investigation.

"I'm not going to go into how we know that but we believe they may have visited the area."

An investigation by The Press revealed the couple spent time in Appleby in 2011, where they lived in a fully furnished, high-end rental property.

This year, Bennett allegedly defrauded a Christchurch helicopter company of a quarter of a million dollars through fabricated and inflated invoices for parts he had supposedly bought for the company, according to the owner.

The money was transferred into an account in Nelson, but Fitzgerald would not confirm if this was the reason for believing the pair may have come to Nelson.

The couple were originally thought to be travelling in a silver BMW, which had reportedly been sighted 10 times in numerous cities, but Fitzgerald said this had since been sold. The vehicle they were driving now - a silver Subaru Forester, registration FBF999 - was what police were looking for, Fitzgerald said.

Nelson residents should keep an eye out for the car, as the couple were believed to still be in New Zealand and could return to the city, Fitzgerald said.

The millionaire owner of the helicopter company alleging the fraud has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the couple's location and arrest.

Anyone who sees the car or the couple were asked to contact Christchurch police on 03 363 7400. Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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- The Nelson Mail

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