Serial deal-maker turns up in Sydney

MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012

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Christchurch's "hobo millionaire" has surfaced in Sydney and is up to his old tricks.

The Press has followed the career of John Gray, 54, since 1998, recording his progress in New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Gray has a history of attempting to dupe property holders and business owners into thinking he is a man of means.

He has agreed to buy oil businesses, hotels, farms, restaurants, aircraft and grand estates but has never had the cash to close the deal.

In fact, the plausible drifter goes from job to job and often lives in homeless shelters.

As the anxious owners wait for settlement, Gray comes up with a litany of excuses.

It's the banks' fault or his money is tied up in a huge trust fund that has hit a legal snag. It might be the American election or a snafu by his lawyer.

He has an uncanny ability to absorb technical information and regurgitate it to make it look as though he has the experience and expertise to match his stunning CV which boasts drilling for oil, mining for gold, flying helicopters, owning an icebreaker and serving in the Special Air Service.

His latest target is the owner of a Sydney transport business who met Gray about seven weeks ago.

David Barnes told The Press Gray claimed he was a multi-millionaire and wanted to buy their furniture removal business in Moorebank for a friend.

"We shook on the deal and I said we would hold him to this. He seemed super intelligent and claimed he had a lease of 30 trucks which he was going to merge into the business."

Gray began arriving at the company's warehouse to help in the business but Barnes' suspicions were sparked when Gray brought his friends from a homeless shelter to work.

"He [said] he was living in the shelter because he didn't want anybody to know how wealthy he was," Barnes said.

When it came time to settle two weeks ago, Gray produced a cheque for $400,000 but the cheque bounced. Gray told them the banks had made a mistake and wrote out another cheque for $400,000.

Barnes gave Gray, who had taken to sleeping in the warehouse, until late last week to pay but that deadline passed without the money arriving.

"There is no doubt this guy is [a] real menace.

"We lost two of our salesmen and the whole thing was a terrific distraction. The business has gone downhill because of him," Barnes said.

He had gone to the police but they were not interested.

Barnes wondered what Gray gained from his performance.

"All he got from me was some food and accommodation. I didn't give him any money. I even took his two BlackBerries and his computer."

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- The Press

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