'Rustling Charlie' facing 13 fraud charges

Charlie Thompson a.k.a "Rustling Charlie" appeared via video link in the Rotorua District Court on Monday. Photo: Stuff.

Police have arrested the man dubbed ‘Rustling Charlie’ on 13 charges of fraud.

Charlie Thompson pleaded not guilty in the Rotorua District Court on Monday after a month in custody, when police opposed bail.

Stuff first reported on Thompson last year after a large number of unpaid contractors and customers of his failed business, High Country Cabins, were left out of pocket.

He was also featured on TVNZ’s long-running consumer programme Fair Go.

Despite his cabin company being put into liquidation, Thompson continued to take deposits for cabins under different trading names from unsuspecting customers, but never finished the work.

Each time his history was revealed, Thompson would set up under a new trading name, often in a new area, and he would use a variety of names.

However, a determined group of seven people stung by Thompson, complained to police which led to him being arrested.

One of those was Chris Booth, who paid a ‘John’ Thompson $40,000 as a deposit for two, kit-set farm sheds for his Northland property last November.

Three months later, just one “small pack” of timber worth $1300 had been delivered, Booth alleges.

Since then, Booth’s tried to get Thompson to pay or deliver the rest of the shed materials, but has not been successful.

Booth said he received an email the night before Thompson was arrested offering him a structured settlement following a mining job in Australia.

Thompson was due to appear in court last Friday, but his appearance was delayed because six more charges were laid. He previously appeared in October, but could not be identified due to a court order.

On Monday, name suppression was lifted after an application from Stuff. The judge said the charges relate to obtaining by deception all over New Zealand, including Alexandra, Rotorua and Palmerston North.

Police opposed bail due to the large number of victims involved and the risk that Thompson would continue to offend by using Facebook marketplace, even if he was electronically monitored.

“He was actively advertising his sheds on social media. The last advertisement was only 22 hours before his arrest,” the police prosecutor said.

She said police believe he has obtained over $500,000 fraudulently from complainants. “This isn’t harmless offending… We do believe he is a flight risk - he’s extremely transient”.

However, Thompson’s lawyer, Michael Olphert, disagreed, saying the figure was more like $180,000-$250,000. He said Thompson “was just a businessman who has done bad deals” and he was “trying to dig himself out of a hole”.

However, Judge Cameron disagreed with Olphert, saying “He’s not a businessman who’s done bad deals. He’s a fraudulent person who according to police has fleeced people out of many hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a reality.”

Thompson was granted electronically-monitored bail to a house in Wanaka from Tuesday evening, where he will stay with family, but said he had to surrender his passport to police and he was not allowed to apply for travel documentation.

Thompson will next appear in Palmerston North District Court on January 19.

-Nadine Roberts/Stuff.

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