Concern as fortune fleeced

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Elderly Queenstowners are being asked to be vigilant about their money after a sex worker allegedly duped an 88-year-old local out of $160,000.

Age Concern Queenstown coordinator Helen Stevens says she deals with about 20 cases of elder abuse a year, about half involving financial rip-offs.

In this latest example, she says the elderly man was “lonely and a bit isolated”.

“This woman built up a trusting relationship with this gentleman and then she took advantage of that.”

His daughter spoke to Mountain Scene this week on the condition she and her Dad weren’t identified.

She says her Dad, who’d lost his wife a year earlier, answered a sex worker’s ad in mid-2015.

“After a [failed] effort in the second week, Dad said there was no sexual connection, what-soever, it was purely a friendship, he thought.”

From early on, the sex worker – understood to be in her early 60s – said she couldn’t afford her rent so her new ‘friend’ started paying it.

“It started at about $500 a week and it soon escalated to $720,” his daughter says.

“We later found out her rent was $520.”

Her Dad would also pay for her groceries and petrol and picked up the tab for restaurant meals all around town.

Her line was that his money was a loan that she’d pay back after her super-rich uncle died.

“He was going to get it all back, plus more,” his daughter says.

“She was going to buy him vehicles, she was going to set him up in a new flat.

“Nothing came to fruition, obviously.”

His daughter estimates she creamed him for about $160,000 over three years.

That was “pretty much” his life savings, she admits – “now he will struggle”.

“She had power over him, she was using him as an ATM.

“You read in the paper about people being sexually abused, and they’re too scared to come forward.

“That’s my Dad – he was being financially abused and he was too scared to come forward, he felt trapped.”

The whole affair unravelled a few months ago when the sex worker suffered a stroke and was choppered to Invercargill’s Southland Hospital.

“Dad rings me up a couple of days later and says, ‘oh, when she comes back to Queenstown I’m going to be her caregiver’.

“I said, ‘no, Dad, that’s not going to happen, you’re 88’.”

The daughter says she rang a senior nurse from whom she learnt the sex worker’s real name.

“I did some research and found her husband, who’d supposedly been dead for 30 years, according to her story, was alive and kicking and living in China.

“I got hold of him and he talked about her ripping off five different men up until Dad.”

She also learnt more from her two sons.

She says it took a month to bring her Dad around – “she had so embedded her lies into him”.

“He was absolutely gutted – he still believes ‘uncle’ exists.”

Stevens says the situation’s “just really, really sad”.

“The important thing is that this gentleman shouldn’t be ashamed or feel foolish.

“He needs all the support he can get because it’s not a criminal act but it’s certainly a devious and dishonest act and he’s been a victim of that.”

Asked for comment yesterday, the sex worker replied: “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

Local senior constable Wayne Park, commenting on elder abuse, says: “From time to time, police become aware that elderly people in our community may be taken advantage of.

“Police endeavour to put these people and their families in touch with agencies that can assist and prevent this from happening.

“In the event that criminal offences are identified, appropriate action will be taken.”

scoop@scene.co.nz