Israeli art scammers told to quit country
Last updated 13:00 15/03/2012
A scam involving Israelis selling artwork door-to-door has been busted, thanks to the suspicions of a Richmond woman.
The Israelis now face deportation. Immigration New Zealand says one, an overstayer, has been taken into custody pending deportation, five found to be working in breach of their visitor visas have been served with deportation liability notices and a seventh, due to leave New Zealand voluntarily, has been warned about working in breach of visa conditions.
Richmond resident Rebekah Young said she felt uneasy when a man claiming to be an Israeli student came to her door selling artwork two weeks ago.
She said he told her they were one-off prints of original paintings. She liked one called Passion Flower and bought it for $180, and he told her a mobile picture framer could call and frame it. She paid a total of $320. Later she discovered a neighbour had been offered the same one, and another the same was seen in the back of the framer's van. She had expected he would be a Nelson framer, but he too was Israeli.
"I just had this sick feeling in my stomach that something was not right," she said.
She said she then went onto her computer and googled "art scam" and found similar stories in Auckland, Napier and Christchurch.
So she rang the police.
Police caught up with the Israelis when they called at another Richmond house.
Young got her money back and handed over the artwork she had bought.
Senior Constable Marty Tutton, of Wakefield, said it was a case of buyer beware.
Anybody could sell door-to-door but the issue was how they were selling and whether there was a misrepresentation, or an attempt to deceive.
"They have been spoken to and advised of the correct procedures in New Zealand."
He said there were five in a van and they admitted to selling artwork in Nelson, Stoke and Richmond.
They were not charged but the police contacted Immigration NZ.
Immigration NZ manager fraud and compliance, Peter Elms, said INZ staff and police visited a Nelson address on Monday and spoke to seven Israeli nationals.
"INZ understands that the artwork being sold door to door is pictures purchased from China for a small sum and sold for between $150 and $400 each."
He said it should be noted that young foreign nationals often came to New Zealand on working holiday visas which would allow them to undertake such activity. New Zealand has a working holiday scheme with Israel.
None of those identified as working unlawfully was on a student visa.
"INZ welcomes information from the New Zealand public to assist in identifying the people involved in possibly unlawful work so that it can investigate and, if required, take action."
Young said she was pleased with the outcome.
"I think they would have sold heaps and I'm probably the only one who has got their money back. I'm just glad I acted quickly. I thought it would be a good idea to warn other residents too."
Israeli art scammers told to quit country | Stuff.co.nz