Queenstown-based credit card thief convicted


A Mexican who ripped off friends, lovers and flatmates during a crime spree through New Zealand has been convicted.

Marco Antonio Lopez-Castro, 31, obtained credit card details from five people over a 17-month period.

Lopez-Castro used the information to buy more than $1300 worth of Quiksilver clothes online, a $200 external hard drive and regularly top up his cell phone credit.

He also convinced a girlfriend to loan him $8000 Queenstown District Court heard yesterday morning, which he refused to pay back.

Prosecuting Sergeant Grant Gerken said: “In September 2012, the defendant advised the victim he had become gravely ill and needed to borrow money for medical bills.

“He advised the victim he needed $750-$1,000 to pay for medication.

“He later advised the victim he was dying and had to go to hospital for three days.

“The victim advised she did not have enough money to lend him and he asked her to borrow from her friends, which she did.

“In October 2012 the victim sent the defendant a further $2500.”

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

He told the victim he did not have a job and needed money to survive.

“When queried by the victim as to why he could not borrow money from his family in Mexico… [he said] it was a cultural thing and it would be like betraying his family,” Sergeant Gerken said.

“He also declared his love to the victim and advised her that as a couple they needed to support each other.”

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 cell phone and a $1600 Apple laptop on one of the victim’s cards, but the transactions were declined due to the card’s credit limit.

He 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 pocket, other victims’ details on his phone, and more than $16000 in his back account.

Lopez-Castro pleaded guilty to 21 charges and was convicted and remanded in custody for sentencing on August 26.

Judge Kevin Phillips said: “You are facing a number of serious dishonesty matters and it appears to me from listening to the summary of facts in reality you have been living off ripping off people… who you have either befriended or they have befriended you.

He added: “You have been relentlessly offending since you came here.”

Judge Phillips said he considered Lopez-Castro to be a flight risk so declined a bail application.

Violent teenager sentenced

A teenager who assaulted a police officer and punched a security guard has been 150 hours’ community work and nine months’ supervision.

Chef Jimmy Clapham, 18, of Fernhill, Queenstown, must also pay $400 emotional harm to the guard.

Queenstown District Court heard yesterday morning that Clapham had been out drinking with friends in Queenstown on June 1.

A security guard spotted him arguing with another man on Searle Lane and tried to break up the incident.

Clapham punched him twice in the face causing swelling and bruising.

When police arrived he resisted arrest, kicking out and elbow one in the forehead, causing a red mark.

Judge Phillips, sentencing, said: “The officers were going to take you back to the station to book you for the assault and also to detox you.

“You weren’t having any of that. You kicked out and elbowed one officer in the forehead.”

Clapham had been convicted of an assault three weeks before the incident.

Judge Phillips said: “This is a wake-up call. If you appear before the courts again on matters of violence; your age, background or alcohol consumption will not stop you from going to prison.”

Clapham had pleaded guilty to assaulting police, common assault and resisting arrest. He was sentenced to 100 hours’ community work for assaulting the security guard.

Clapham was sentenced to 50 hours’ community work for assaulting the officer and resisting arrest. The hours are cumulative but can be converted to training if the probation officer sees fit.

The nine-month supervision order includes alcohol counselling and any treatment to the satisfaction of probation and the treatment provider.

Student sentenced for assault child

A Queenstown man who slapped a 13-year-old girl in the face has been sentenced to community work and supervision.

Student Ethan Neville Wright, 18, of Watts Road, Fernhill, struck the teenager after a drinking session at a family friends’ house on April 29.

Wright had attempted to start a fight with the youngster’s brother, who he believed was dating his ex-partner. When the girl tried to calm him down, he slapped her right cheek. The blow was described as hard and painful in the victim impact statement.

Judge Kevin Phillips, sentencing at Queenstown District Court yesterday morning, said: “People who come before me for assaulting a child normally go to prison.

“You are 18 so are just as accountable as a 30-year-old.”

However, Judge Phillips said Wright had taken positive steps to deal with his alcohol-related issues and rehabilitation had to be considered as part of the sentence.

“You show strengths young man,” Phillips said, “that do not correlate with the summary of facts.”

Wright was sentenced to nine months’ supervision with a special condition of counselling and treatment for alcohol issues, along with 120 hours’ community work.

The community work can be converted into training if a probation officer sees fit and served concurrently with another 50 hours’ community work Wright was sentenced to yesterday for wilful damage. It relates to a separate incident in which he ran amok in Queenstown CBD and damaged a scooter.

Wright, who has already paid $1353 in reparation to the scooter’s owner, was also sentenced to nine months’ supervision for the wilful damage, with the same conditions. He was convicted and discharged on a disorderly behaviour charge.

Violent drunk convicted

A 20-year-old woman who threw a beer bottle at a bouncer and assaulted him with a candle has been convicted of assault.

Queenstown District Court heard chef Chloe Joy Hogg, of Avalon Crescent, Fernhill, had been drinking heavily when she attacked the doorman at Queenstown’s 1876 bar on June 20.

Sergeant Gerken said: “She had been asked to leave due to her level of intoxication.

“She attempted to get back in but was denied entry. She then threw a Heineken bottle at his head.”

The bottle hit the right side of his head but did not break. Hogg then grabbed a nearby burning candle, hitting him with it and sending hot wax over his face and shoulders.

Hogg told police she had consumed two bottles of wine and numerous shots on the night and can’t remember the incident.

She was convicted on one charge of assault with weapons, namely a bottle and a burning candle, and will be sentenced on September 9. Two other charges were withdrawn.

Drink driver remanded in custody

A 22-year-old was remanded in custody after pleading guilty to his fifth driving conviction in five years.

Fraser Allan Soutar McEwan, of Matakauri Place, Fernhill, gave a reading of 1188 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath when stopped by officers on Camp Street at 2.35am on June 28.

The legal limit is 400mcg.

Judge Kevin Phillips told McEwan, who works as a chef, that a custodial sentence is inevitable. Judge Phillips ordered pre-sentence reports and the forfeiture of McEwan’s 1989 Mazda.

McEwan was remanded in custody, due to the likelihood he would offend while on bail, and is due to be sentenced on August 26.

Remand after chase

A Uruguayan man who allegedly led police on a high-speed chase through Queenstown, fled from the scene of an accident and hid out in the hills overnight has been remanded at large.

Gorga Pablo Martin Figueroa (35) is charged with reckless driving, failing to stop after an accident, stealing two bush shirts worth $200 and two charges of unlawfully being on someone else’s property.

Diary worker Figueroa, of Pomahaka Downs Road, Popotunoa, Clutha, allegedly was the subject of a manhunt on Saturday, July 27, after speeding away from police, clipping another car and then running off into the hills off Gorge Road. He was arrested on Sunday morning in undergrowth near Arthur’s Point.

Judge Kevin Phillips remanded him a large to Invercargill District Court his morning while he is medically assessed.

Other convictions

Jason Patrick Smith, 31, delivery driver, of Fernhill, Queenstown, possession of 12 grams of cannabis and utensils, sentenced to 50 hours’ community work for cannabis and 40 hours’ for utensils, concurrent.

Brent Raymond Kenny, 44, parking operations manager, of Frankton Road, Queenstown, possession of 32 grams of cannabis, sentenced to 100 hours’ community work.

Kolin Emile Buzerak, 22, American on work visa, of Shoreline Drive, Queenstown, drink driving on Frankton Road, July 28, 563mcg, fined $560, $132 costs, disqualified for six months.

Adam Duncan Murray, 23, drainlayer, of McBride Street, Frankton, drink driving, 104 millilitres in blood, fined $550, $130 costs.

Tae Han Kim, 24, accountant of New South Wales Australia, careless use of motor vehicle, Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, July 27, fined $400, court costs $130.

Anna Logan Brown, 50, self-employed of Park Street, Queenstown, drink driving, 629mcg, fined $675, costs $130, disqualified for six months.

John Stephen Guy, 19, student of Lake Avenue, Frankton, drink driving, 328mcg (under 20), fined $300, $130 costs, disqualified for three months.