Pudgy con artist with sorry tale rips off eateries
An overweight and brazen conwoman exploited business owners' fear and goodwill during a scamming spree in Thames yesterday.
The woman struck at least five cafes with her elaborate ruse between 8.30am and 10.30am.
And it appears the same offender hit The Meat Man butchery more than a month ago in Paeroa.
Brew Cafe owner Sam Lamb was left furious and $68 out of pocket after a visit from "Lisa Smyth".
Ms Lamb described the woman as relaxed, polite and feasible.
And overweight - possibly pregnant - short, with blonde hair, pale skin, a tattoo on her upper arm and a white, button top.
The woman walked into Brew Cafe before about 10am and the swindle began.
The woman said she recently ate there with three others.
They all ordered fish of the day. It was enjoyable but 12 hours later they all got sick with vomiting and diarrhoea.
And because she was pregnant she feared for her baby's health and talked to her midwife, "Maggie Harper".
The woman even showed Ms Lamb a syringe hole left after a blood test.
"She said it wasn't the food, it was the personal hygiene of the chef which, of course, is negligence," Ms Lamb said.
"I thought: oh god. She said somebody hasn't washed their hands after they've been to the toilet and we've all got sick - I was thinking: this'll be the end of me."
Ms Lamb took the woman's name and phone number and asked why she took so long to make contact.
The woman said she called and talked a to a "very nice, helpful person" who said the owner would either reimburse her or provide free meals.
"She was really polite, saying: I'm so sorry to be complaining but I'm pregnant so I have to be really careful.
"She had such a story. I said: OK, we'll reimburse you and I'll get to the bottom of it. So I gave her back $68."
In almost every Thames business the woman went to it was the same story.
At Paeroa's The Meat Man butchery the woman even said her midwife was Amy Winehouse, the now-dead British singer-songwriter. In at least two cases in Thames the woman's tale faltered and she left quickly.
It was slightly different at Thames' Sola Cafe. The woman told co-owner Clare Rodley that her family had ordered five trim-milk hot chocolates but got full cream, which they were all allergic to, instead.
The woman showed a small patch of rash on her skin and said she had to take a week off her Auckland Airport job because the rash welled up on her face.
"I thought: Oh my God. The poor woman. She's had to use her sick days because of us," Ms Rodley said.
"I said: how awful it is to have allergies. So I gave her $21."
Ms Lamb learned she had been duped from Ms Rodley who rang to warn her.
"We said: oh s..., it's too late. She's already hit us. I was so angry," Ms Lamb said.
She marched up the street warning every food outlet about the conwoman until she reached Sola cafe.
"Clare came out and gave me a big hug and said: we got hit too."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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