Ex-bar boss admits fraud


A Brit cleared of cannabis dealing after bungled police work has now been convicted of credit card fraud.

Former Queenstown bar manager James Robert Neill, 30, used two customers’ bank cards to steal more than $1700, while working in Searle Lane’s Cowboys bar in March and May.

Last year, drug dealing charges against him were dismissed during a pre-trial hearing, with a judge labelling the police work sloppy.

The case was one of about a dozen brought about by cops using text messages as their main evidence.

But Neill’s credit card offences didn’t require much investigation.

He handed himself into cops after being told by his employer he had been caught red-handed on CCTV using the cards. Neill admitted four representative dishonesty charges in Queenstown’s court on Monday.

Sergeant Ian Collin says the first card, a MasterCard Access Prepaid Travel Card, had been lost by an Australian tourist in the bar on March 14.

Another customer handed it to Neill.

“At 2.43am, the defendant used the card to pay the staff tab, $63,” Collin says.

“He signed the Eftpos receipt purporting to be the owner.

“Then, he used the card three times over 11 minutes to buy $8 alcoholic drinks with tips of $400, $200 and $50.”

Neill took $650 cash from the till.

American woman Kayla Fry used her Capital One Visa credit card to pay for a drink on May 11.

Neill kept the card and used it to make five separate transactions, each time for an $8 drink and $200 tips, again signing the receipts. He took $1000 cash from the till.

Both victims queried the payments and the general manager identified Neill as the culprit from CCTV footage.

Lawyer Kate McHugh says Neill’s remorseful and immediately gave back $800 cash when he spoke to the police. He can pay back the rest.

“Mr Neill accepts he needs to go back home and doesn’t deserve to be here any more,” McHugh says.

He has been unemployed since the incident.

Judge Mark Callaghan says the offending had consequences for the victims.

“One had saved up for two years and taken a break from caring for ill parents,” Callaghan says.

Neill is sentenced to 100 hours’ community work on each of four charges, to be served concurrently.

He must also pay $913 reparation, which is the balance of the money stolen.