A couple are struggling to get justice after losing thousands of dollars to a company operated by a convicted fraudster out on parole, even though the man behind the scam is now locked up again.
Jason David Simpson has been sentenced to 2 years and 8 months in prison for ripping off businesses (and for breaching parole and not paying fines) using Arizona Transport Ltd, a company he created while on parole for other fraud charges.
“You have told a lot of lies to a lot of people in your life, Mr Simpson”, Judge Tony Greig said, when passing sentence on him in April at New Plymouth District Court.
It’s a partial victory for Christchurch couple Bridget Gilchrist and Rowan Ovenden.
“That's awesome that he's going to jail.” Bridget told Fair Go on hearing the sentence. “That's what Ro wants. Ro's after the justice; I'm trying to solve a problem.”
The couple had paid Arizona Transport $3000 in advance to shift a house-lot and a motorbike from Auckland to Christchurch, just before the first lockdown last year. Contact stopped then and they’ve had no luck getting their money back or getting answers.
Bridget had been in two minds: “Is this a Covid crash and burn or is this hey, Covid’s happening it's all smoky out here let's take the money and run?”
They had dealt over the phone and in emails with someone called Ben Smith who turned out to be Jason Simpson, operating the company from Taranaki. He was still on parole for fraud charges relating to a previous moving company he had run, and his activities breached that parole.
The court heard police had received complaints from businesses that Jason Simpson had not paid for hiring vehicles and trailers from, under the names Ben and Madison - the losses were over $33,000 to those businesses.
Fair Go understands there may also be many customers still owed money, who may be unaware of the criminal proceedings and convictions for Jason Simpson.
Bridget and Rowan had been chasing someone else for their money – the sole listed director of Arizona Transport Ltd, a woman named Acacia Thomson.
They won an order from the Disputes Tribunal, but the bailiffs couldn’t find Ms Thomson at the Gisborne home where Arizona Transport was registered.
Fair Go tracked her down in Waitara, where she suggested anyone wanting their money back talk to Jason Simpson, or the police.
“The police came and questioned me, and I am aware of that situation, but I would like to make no comment,“ Acacia Thomson told Fair Go.
The court heard Simpson had convinced Ms Thomson to set up Arizona Transport and open a bank account in her name which he then used.
Bridget Gilchrist went to the police with that. Her complaint was bounced to Auckland, because that was where she and her partner were living at the time they paid over the money.
Auckland Police have told Bridget it is a civil matter not a criminal one, but Fair Go has provided them with yet more information about the criminal case and convictions and police may be reconsidering.
Bridget and Rowan were also about to thwarted from taking further civil action.
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) was about to remove Arizona Transport Ltd from the Companies Register for failing to meet filing obligations. That would snuff out the couple’s order for repayment – and stop any other customer chasing up their debts.
Fair Go provided more information about the criminal matter and MBIE has decided not to deregister Arizona Transport for now.
The company had been registered for less than two months when Arizona Transport Ltd pitched for Bridget and Rowan’s move. Fair Go still has unanswered questions about that for another business - Backload.
The couple had signed up with Backload and listed their move - for free. Backload then charges carriers a fee to receive these listings and bid for the jobs.
Backload told Fair Go carriers are vetted first and that it relies upon them holding a current TSL or transport service license, which includes a good-character test. It says Arizona Transport provided a TSL number when it signed up.
However, the NZ Transport Agency, Waka Kōtahi, told Fair Go that there is no license for running a moving company and that TSL is only for trucks over 6 tonnes. There is no public register for the TSL numbers that lets the public check they are valid.
Fair Go asked Backload if it felt responsible at all for what happened when it put Arizona Transport Ltd in touch with customers and how many leads it passed on. Backload has so far declined to answer those questions.
Police have urged anyone with a complaint about Arizona Transport, or Jason David Simpson to contact them with the details.
Fair Go suggests you also draw their attention to this story and ask for a review if the case officer says it’s a civil matter and not something Police can take further.