Just got conned by James Power – conman

Had an interesting experience.
Picked up a bloke hitch-hiking a couple of weeks ago, and gave him a lift from Renwick to Nelson.
He claimed to be the head of cameras for the BBC, who had decided to try and meet some interesting New Zealanders by hitching around.
I let him out at Nelson, and offered him accommodation if he got to Kaikoura.
About a week later he showed up, and the story got more and more complex.

When we went to Christchurch to pick up Jewelia last night, we can back home to a note saying his daughter was injured in a car accident and he had to go back to Ireland.
Various aspects of the story didn’t sound quite right, so I started seriously checking some of the things I could, and within a couple of hours became confident that he was a conman, and contacted the police. He was known to them, with an outstanding warrant for fraud.

He claimed to be James Power [inserted much later – real name Richard James Webster], a NZ Maori by blood adopted at birth to an Irish couple and raised in Ireland as Irish.
He claimed to have lost his wife Jenny O’Reilly (or Jenny O’Rielly or Jennifer O’Reilly – daughter of Tony O’Reilly) to cancer last year, to be Head of Cameras for the BBC, on sabbatical for a year, and many other fabrications that sounded plausible at the time, because some aspects of them were real.
Here’s a couple of photos of him.

Photo of James Power??? (obviously not his real name) on my boat.

Photo of James Power??? (obviously not his real name) on my boat.

Another photo of James Power on a trip to Clarence Reserve

Another photo of James Power on a trip to Clarence Reserve

He has got our company car, a gold Ford Laser 1.5GL hatch (PE6658), and who knows what else.
Beware of him.
He is a very likeable rogue.
Could make a great living as a story teller.

I have reported him to the police and hope to get my car back eventually.


{Knowing that games theory requires that cheats be punished, I did up this reward poster, and distributed it amongst trucking companies. A truck driver spotted him in Nelson and he did a stretch in prison. Haven’t seen him since.}

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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14 Responses to Just got conned by James Power – conman

  1. OM says:

    Expecting that you will get your car back, and all other ‘collateral damage’ will be minimal. Hope putting this on your blog with license will help get car and get justice.


  2. Thanks OM
    That was my intention too.
    I’m just really annoyed at him that he would cause a teenager such anguish with his broken promises. It may be a useful lesson to her for later life, but she never actually got to meet him, so it may not be all that useful in that respect.


  3. debyemm says:

    He feels like a likeable guy, Ted. One wonders how life’s path got him to where he is now. If there is honor among thieves, it would seem he might have it. As you noted, he could have taken more but appears to have just wanted to get to somewhere else. Perhaps he grew fonder of you and yours, than is the usual case, given awareness of him by the police.

    I don’t think we waste our good intentions and kindnesses – ever. There are those who are opportunists but they are few and far between one hopes.


    • OM says:

      I was on the verge of articulating this, and it resonates with your impression and thoughts Deb. I have a sense that MAYBE he simply has a different “ethics” from the accepted laws and norms, probably based on different concepts around private property,. The challenge is, of course, that he is choosing to live under his own “laws” and not the accepted ones on the land he is moving around on. So while MAYBE he is not out to do harm (on his own terms) he ends up doing harm.

      And then again there is the matter of the promises (?) made and not kept. Could be a different way of looking at those things too.

      And then again there is the matter of mis-representing who he is (BBC.) On THAT I don’t see any alternative perspective which would make THAT OK within that perspective…..


  4. Oh my gosh, Ted. As you said, he looks like a pleasant, likable fellow. Who knew what lay (or in his case “lie”) beneath the cover of his book? (as in “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover)…


  5. Hi Deb, OM and Laurie

    Yes – he is a very likeable guy.
    Ailsa and I have spent much time wondering and talking about the sort of life path that must have taken him to where he is.

    I have also spent a few hours contemplating what I could have done differently that would have alerted me to the con earlier.

    I am committed to keeping possibility open in my life, which means staying open to things that are unlikely and possible. If I rejected the unlikely, then I would simply have accepted my death 3 years ago. So I cannot use probability alone as a filter, though I can use it to narrow the search for things to verify.

    It seems to me that I can only use verification.

    The thing about James’ story, was that it had been crafted in such a way that there was very little that was verifiable. His mistake in the end was naming people that he had met in NZ. Once lots of little things had added up to a need to verify, I just called one of the people he had said he had spent time with, and said “either I am calling to ask about a mutual friend, or I am calling to confirm that I have been conned.” That got her interest, and it did not take long to confirm that it was 100% con.

    There were many small things that should have alerted me earlier, and in a sense did, yet I so wanted for it to be true, and I so did not want to close down possibility.
    He did not have any technology with him, and his explanation was that he left all that stuff in the office, and just wanted to have a holiday (in a sense I could understand that, it is a reasonably common experience for those who do not deeply understand the technologies they are using – though not one I share).

    I found it strange that I could find no reference to him in the BBC, and the BBC does not go out of its way to publicise the identify of its staff.

    I also found it strange that he did not seem to know many of the basics of using technology, the sorts of things that people who go to far away places and rely in their technology usually learn very quickly. One example being that our Sky TV decoder locked up, and would not change channels, when Ailsa and I were out seeing “The life of Pi” on Friday night. It does that every six months or so, and I simply turn the unit off, and start it again, and whatever the glitch is gets sorted out. Doing such a hard reset (full power off, pause for 10 seconds, then power on again), is the first thing that any support tech’ will teach to someone taking technology into wild places. It deals with 90% of problems. Yet James had not done it. That really had me wondering. I excused it by the fact that the power board that powers the decoder is hidden behind the TV, and is difficult to reach, and it takes a bit of work to track which plug belongs to which unit. And to me, it was a major inconsistency in his story. It was almost inconceivable to me that someone who had actually done what he claimed to have done would not have reset the unity and got control back. He did in fact seem to be a complete technophobe.

    Another thing that did raise my suspicion was when he started talking about using cameras to make a documentary about Kaikoura, he did not seem to have any concept of focal length of lenses.

    So it seems to me, that an appropriate lesson for me to take from this is to take on the discipline of verifying something about the identity of anyone.
    James had nothing easily verifiable about him, and had a plausible explanation as to why in every case.

    What eventually caught him out was that I did actually call one of the famous New Zealanders that he said he had recently spent time with; and she didn’t know him.

    I am short one old car, and have learned some valuable lessons.

    What I do not understand is why he would go so far as to write a note to my daughter explaining that his daughter had advised him to give her the travel miles that would otherwise expire, and it wouldn’t cost him anything.


  6. OM says:

    Aha. So your intuition was operating perfectly, but was being overridden.
    Well, as far as lessons go, the tuition on this one financially was small compared to what it might have been, and I think J. will be OK, she will have learned something too, and maybe you can help it be appropriate and not overgeneralized….


  7. Hi All
    On Wednesday 13th March I got a phone call from the police in Lawrence (about 350 miles SW of us) to say that our car had been found on the side of the road, out of gas. I now have to go down and drive it back home. Probably next weekend.

    I had taken the time to make up a little wanted poster, with a small $50 reward, and to distribute it around trucking companies, asking their drivers to keep an eye out for the guy, and on Friday 15th he was spotted on a corner in Richmond (about 150 miles northwest of us), and he is now in police custody.

    It seems that his real name is Richard James Webster.

    Ailsa’s pack and my LED torch are there, but the alcohol and cash and fuel are gone.
    Looks like a couple of more days and another couple of hundred dollars on our part to recover things.


  8. I have the car back.
    Went down to Christchurch on Saturday evening, then Sunday morning drove down to Cromwell with Ailsa, as some friends bought the car from Lawrence up to Cromwell, I left Ailsa at Cromwell for week with her mum, shifted my gear to the company car, and drove back to Kaikoura. That had me driving from 9am until 11pm with about an hour and a half in total as stops for gas and food.

    One plus, was that there was a cardboard box in the back, and when I looked in it, there was a bottle of whisky and a bottle of Tequila (he must have forgotten that he put them there in his rush to get away from the out of gas car).

    Really strange the things that he took, and the things that he left.


    • OM says:

      Yikes that is a long driiving time! Yes, this incident will provide fuel for contemplating various mysteries, for quite awhile. I am glad for all the good endings.


  9. Katrina King says:

    Well watch out Northland hes doing the rounds up here we are friends with his ex and she is glad he is the ex. Well spoken and can he tell a story or 2.


  10. Hi Katrina
    He was supposed to be doing 14 months on Her Majesty, but I guess they let him out early (some good story spun).
    The shame is he could be such a valuable contributor to society, if he wasn’t so into his little power trips. He certainly has people skills.


    • Katrina King says:

      Yep turned up at our place telling us he is driving trucks and the truck was ordered off the road. Needed a bed for the night LUCKY we know all about him. Yes it is a shame he tells so many stories he could have been a real contributor to our society.When we first met him he told us he was a professor at Winnipeg University in Canada what a wonderful story teller he is.


  11. Pingback: Use vs Abuse | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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