The dodgy past of ‘Mr Phoney’, TradeMe scammer Richard Mark Wallace


He has gone by many names, had a spell in many professions, and left behind many victims.

“I doubt any of us could know the full extent of his dishonesty,” a man who ran into Richard Mark Wallace​ after the TradeMe scammer’s sentencing this week said.

“He typically runs so many scams simultaneously, I doubt he even knows.”

Stuff archives show the colourful past of con artist Richard Mark Wallace

STUFF ARCHIVES

Stuff archives show the colourful past of con artist Richard Mark Wallace

Wallace, also known as George Auckland, was jailed on Monday after scamming at least 27 people out of $220,000 for goods he never delivered.

READ MORE:
* Scammer duped Trade Me users out of $220,000 for items they never received
* Trade Me car dealer arrested on fraud charges

But Wallace’s crimes and many aliases go way back, sometimes displaying a breathtaking brazenness.

The man who contacted Stuff after Wallace’s sentencing said he nearly lost $14,000 on a boat import.

He said that was about a decade ago, and he tried warning New Zealand authorities about the “pathological fraudster”.

Wallace’s appearance at Auckland District Court​ on Monday rekindled memories of the career con artist.

Wallace, now in his early 60s, has gone by aliases including Richard Worthington, Ricardo Wallacia and Allan Marble.

He was extradited from Australia in 1982 for fraud, and in 1986 established himself as an Auckland car salesman and finance broker, Stuff archives showed.

His prolific cons led to him facing charges for $91,822 of dodgy deals with creditors.

Court reports at the time suggested he had friends in the gang world, including some who helped prevent a boat acquired in a questionable deal from being repossessed.

Australian and Kiwi authorities simultaneously wanted Wallace in January 1988.

One newspaper dubbed Wallace “King Con” after a nationwide fraud spree.

STUFF ARCHIVES

One newspaper dubbed Wallace “King Con” after a nationwide fraud spree.

By then, he was known as a “former car salesman” and finance broker living on the Gold Coast – the Queensland glamour strip sometimes dubbed “a sunny place for shady people”.

Working as a finance broker, Wallace faced 25 fraud charges and was accused of committing other offences while on bail.

Earlier that summer, when Auckland fraud squad cops tracked him down, he reportedly went on the run across three states after failing to show up for what would have been another extradition hearing.

He was extradited in 1989 and did not stay out of court for long.

SEXOLOGIST SCAM

By 1991, the new world of mobile phones seemingly excited Wallace, who reportedly used a stolen cellphone to pay for a sexologist while on bail for more fraud charges.

Wallace loved aliases, and the newspapers gave him some more. The Auckland Star dubbed him “Mr Phoney” and reported he’d faced fraud, theft, car conversion, and perjury charges.

He was also accused of “doing firms out of $1100 cell phones” after using an alias to buy a company name, prompting the Star to give him the moniker “Phone Shark”.

Then aged 33, he was arrested in May that year after trying to get a fake passport to skip the country.

In June 1991, it was revealed the sexologist counselling happened when Wallace was on bail awaiting fraud charges.

Around this time, one lawyer said Wallace was a kind man, but had trouble appreciating what he did was illegal.

By now, his victims reportedly included a luxury car firm, plane-hire company and motel owners nationwide.

He allegedly managed to talk luxury car dealers into lending him a $35,000 Mercedes-Benz which was never returned.

Private investigators were put on the case but Wallace and the car both proved elusive.

KIWI RIP-OFF ROAD TRIP

In April 1991, with cops in pursuit, Wallace visited Rotorua, Wellington and Hamilton, reportedly ripping off taxi drivers, motels, a pilot, and petrol stations.

By August 1996, Wallace and two other car dealers were charged with fraud after being accused of forging documents for Japanese imports.

According to the Herald, he faced 103 charges of forging certificates, and 206 of using the crooked documents.

Wallace was a car buyer at the time and denied the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charges.

In 1998, he was jailed for the scam. At Auckland District Court, Judge Coral Shaw said Wallace’s schemes had dented public confidence in the used car business.

According to NZPA, Wallace claimed he had only 30 to 40 odometers modified, but a mechanic said in evidence he’d been paid $20 a vehicle to rewind them to lower the distance travelled in about 300 cars.

At some point after serving time in prison, Wallace went to America.

While Wallace was overseas, the man in the attempted boat kept up an interest in the Kiwi con artist.

AMERICAN CAPER

“It bugged the hell out of me that he was apparently untouchable, so I persisted with US authorities in San Diego … and made a case that he had entered the US illegally by not admitting the SFO conviction.”

The boat buyer alleged Wallace got into the States using the name George Auckland but was eventually “forcibly returned” to New Zealand.

In about 2008, blog posts appeared warning Americans and others not to fall for Wallace’s scams.

“Unfortunately for us and many other unsuspecting Kiwis, we have all lost several hundreds or thousands of dollars to this man who promised us boats, motorbikes and motor vehicles,” one blogger wrote at the time.

In claims that might sound familiar to Wallace’s recent victims, the blogger said dramas with bungled freight movements and continual lies to customers plagued the deals.

“All he has delivered us is nothing but hollow promises and shallow excuses.”

Ron Allen says he and his wife lost $8000 to Wallace's scam. The couple were among dozens of victims nationwide.

JOHN WEEKES/Stuff.co.nz

Ron Allen says he and his wife lost $8000 to Wallace’s scam. The couple were among dozens of victims nationwide.

At Monday’s sentencing, Judge Brooke Gibson said many of Wallace’s latest victims, who lived in Auckland, Queenstown and elsewhere, were not wealthy people.

“You are a dishonest person and have been for many, many years,” Judge Gibson told the fraudster.

One of the victims in Wallace’s latest scam was Ron Allen​, ​who tried to buy a trailer from Wallace to transport clothes to sell at markets.

Instead, Allen said he was stiffed out of $8000 after Wallace used phone and email to bypass the regular Trade Me system.

Wallace then failed to pay a shipping company which was to distribute the trailer, Allen said.

AN UNENVIABLE LIFE

“In some ways I feel sorry for him,” the boat buyer said of Wallace.

“He’s always looking over his shoulder, he could never safely call anywhere ‘home’, and I’m certain he doesn’t know what a genuine friendship feels like.”

But the boat buyer said Wallace also knew exactly what he was doing.

That, he said, was stealing from hardworking people and knowing the “ridiculously high standard of proof in a civil or criminal action” would often render him untouchable.

The boat buyer doesn’t envy the life of fraudsters such as Wallace.

“Our pay might not be as good as some of these fraudsters … but we have family and friends that love us,” he said.

“That’s worth more than any scam could pay.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *