Jail for Queenstown credit card fraudster

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A Mexican credit card fraudster has been sentenced to six months in prison.
 
Marco Antonio Lopez-Castro, 31, swindled friends, flatmates and a girlfriend during a 17-month crime spree across New Zealand. 

Lopez-Castro pleaded guilty to 21 charges on July 29 and was remanded in custody until Monday’s sentencing.
Queenstown District Court heard Lopez-Castro obtained credit card details from five people and used the information to buy more than $1300 worth of Quiksilver clothes online, a $200 external hard drive and regularly top up his cellphone credit. 

Lopez-Castro also convinced a girlfriend to loan him $8000, the court heard, which he refused to pay back. 

Prosecuting sergeant Grant Gerken says: “In September 2012, the defendant advised the victim he had become gravely ill and needed to borrow money for medical bills. He later advised the victim he was dying and had to go to hospital for three days.” 

Lopez-Castro was living in Queenstown at the time on a work visa and worked as a kitchen-hand, labourer and packer. 

Three of Lopez-Castro’s victims were other foreigners he had entered into flatting arrangements with while in Queenstown. He accessed their laptops and took credit card details, using them to buy goods online. 

Lopez-Castro also attempted to buy a $1000 Samsung cellphone and a $1600 Apple laptop on one of the victim’s cards, but the transactions were declined due to the card’s credit limit 

Lopez-Castro also stole a credit card that had been dropped in a Queenstown bar. The victim reported the theft and fraudulent use to police on June 29. 

Officers executed a search warrant at Lopez-Castro’s Queenstown address on July 11. They found the credit card in a jacket, other victims’ details on his phone, and more than $16,000 in his bank. 

Sentencing him to six months in prison on the theft of the $8000, Judge Kevin Phillips says: “I don’t really see remorse, other than for yourself after being caught. 

“Your modus operandi seems to be to get friendly with people and then proceed to rip them off. 

“This is with people you’ve met while on a course, or flatting or travelling. You are a thoroughly dishonest person.” 

Defence counsel Mike Newall said Lopez-Castro was extremely remorseful for his actions and had agreed to pay back all the money he had stolen. 

Lopez-Castro, who’ll be deported on release, was sentenced to six months and three three-month sentences on the other charges – all to run at the same time. 

Jail for chronic drink-driver
A kitchen-hand caught drink-driving for a fifth time has been sentenced to eight months in prison. 

Fraser Allan Soutar McEwan, 22, was almost three times the legal limit at Church Street, Queenstown, on June 28. 

McEwan, of Fernhill, was also disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence indefinitely when he appeared at Queenstown District Court on Monday. 

The court heard McEwan had driven into a carpark to evade police. His breath alcohol level was 1188 micrograms per litre of breath. The legal limit is 400mcg. 

Judge Phillips says: “This is an extremely high reading. Clearly these [previous] sentences have not had an impact on you because you continue to offend and abuse alcohol.” 

McEwan had previous convictions in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and had received sentences of home detention, community work and rehabilitation. 

Judge Philips imposed special conditions on release to undertake and complete alcohol and drug counselling after an assessment. 

McEwan is not eligible to apply for a licence for one year and then must attend an assessment centre should he wish to obtain a licence, which must be approved by the Director of Land Transport. Any licence would be a zero-alcohol licence. 

An order was made for the confiscation of his 1989 Mazda car. 

“You’re a high risk of reoffending,” Judge Phillips says. “You say you can control alcohol so haven’t learnt that for you only total abstinence will keep you out of trouble. This type of driving conduct is appalling.” 

Shoplifter admits guilt
An Australian teenager who went on a four-day shoplifting spree through Queenstown has been convicted. 

Rueben William Wikitera, 18 – who was on a school snow trip from Dickson College in Canberra – admitted stealing nearly $1670 worth of goods when he appeared in Queenstown District Court on Monday. 

Queenstown police described finding an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of stolen goods after searching his room. Wikitera had been spotted by gift shop staff after repeatedly stealing from their store over a series of visits between August 18 and 22. 

Judge Phillips fined the youngster $1769 and ordered he pay $780 in court costs after he pleaded guilty to six theft charges. The court heard Wikitera is likely to be expelled on his return to school unless he addresses his problems through counselling. 

Other convictions
Sam Williams, 22, tyre re-treader of Frankton, behaved in a disorderly manner likely to cause violence at The Remarkables skifield carpark on July 28, sentenced to 60 hours’ community work.
 
Sam Leslie Weenink, 25, of Fernhill, drink-driving on Lake Esplande on July 24, 98mg in blood, 100 hours’ community work, disqualified nine months. 

Hyeonsu Ju, 24, self-employed in sky-dive industry, of Queenstown, fighting in public place on August 17, fined $500. 

Julian Robert Ketchel, 43, of Queenstown, breaching supervision order, sentenced to six months’ supervision and to attend any required programmes. 

Jeavon Jamie Rapata-Brookland, 18, builder apprentice of Fernhill, disorderly behaviour on Shotover St, August 11, 70 hours’ community work, nine months’ supervision.