Liz Proctor & Ryan Keen
Queenstown tourism businesses have joined forces to collar two Vietnamese teens allegedly living it up on stolen credit cards.
The accused fraudsters – a male, 17, and female, 19, who have name suppression – were hand-delivered to the resort’s police station by local operator Heli Tours after being tracked down by Bookme.co.nz website director James Alder.
They face a raft of deception charges for allegedly racking up plush accommodation, heliskiing, a rental car, beauty treatments and other activities around the resort from June 30 to July 4.
Alder, who started his discount booking website seven months ago, was alerted to the alleged swindlers by a July 5 call from an Australian whose credit card had been used on Alder’s site.
“He called to alert me so we could have a crack at trying to nab these guys,” Alder says.
Alder called the local cops – to be told they couldn’t do anything since the Australian card hadn’t been reported stolen in New Zealand. A bank’s fraud department said basically the same thing.
Alder then searched his system and came across a Heli Tours booking made by the same people but using a different credit card.
“They were pretty much an hour away from taking up services with Heli Tours,” Alder says.
The alleged fraudsters, who hail from Wellington, had already been collected by courtesy coach from the swanky five-star Hilton Queenstown hotel when Alder alerted Heli Tours boss Paul Mitchell.
Alder: “They arrived while I was talking to him so I got off the phone and called Queenstown police.”
Mitchell made an excuse not to take the two on the trip and when police phoned him, the duo was already being driven downtown by Heli Tours employee Diane Anderson.
Mitchell says he told Anderson: “‘Whatever you do, don’t let them out of your sight. Just hold them until the men in blue arrive’.”
Anderson stopped near the cop shop and stalled the pair till police came, Mitchell says.
“It was a bit like a secret squirrel mission,” he adds.
Alder: “When you hear they’ve been ringing up bills with Hilton and Air New Zealand … for a little old Queenstown company to do the footwork and get them nabbed is a pretty good feeling.”
The accused are bailed to a Wellington address and due to appear in Queenstown District Court on July 25.