‘Sorry’: Prolific conman speaks for the ‘first and final’ time

Wayne Eaglesome has left a trail of victims from his years of tall tales but after he fled the country, Sam Sherwood has tracked him down.



Stuff NZ Newspapers



He’s racked up more than 250 convictions and has at least 40 aliases, but now conman Wayne Eaglesome says he’s ‘‘sorry’’, in what he says is his first and final interview. The conman came to notoriety for turning a five-bed home into a backpackers, hosting up to 28 people a day, claiming to be a millionaire, faking his death, and going on a crime spree, staying in flash hotels pretending to be a priest and a doctor. He was jailed for two years and three months in October 2018 after an investigation by Stuff – the parent company of the Sunday Star-Times – revealed he was running a company, despite being banned from being a director. After his release he has been spotted in Spain offering large amounts of money to men for sex under the name Friedrich Freiherr Von Thyssen. More recently he’s popped up in Turkey and Bangkok under the name Alex Neumann, claiming to be a German national with $90m in Bitcoin. Stuff has approached Eaglesome, who is also a convicted sex offender, for comment numerous times in the past six years. In January 2018 he said he was ‘‘never going to do an interview’’ with this journalist. ‘‘That’s never going to happen.’’ Yesterday, the Star-Times tried calling the conman on a phone he was using while in Turkey. He then messaged to say he had some surgery coming up and talking to the Star-Times was ‘‘not exactly a priority’’. He claims to currently be in Morocco, but will likely go back to Asia soon. ‘‘I have had my stomach cut out via a gastric sleeve and the next surgery is changing my eye colour and after that I have a few more surgeries.’’ Eaglesome, who fled the country about a year ago, after he was charged with breaching his release conditions, says he will ‘‘never return’’. He claimed he had been ‘‘living off cryptocurrency’’ he accumulated between 2008 and 2018. At his sentencing in 2018, Eaglesome’s lawyer said the conman believed he was able to make reparations of $30,000 once out of prison as he had access to cryptocurrency he could cash on release. He says the 33 Bitcoin he had then was worth about NZ$3000 each, and are now worth about $47,000 meaning he had about $1.5m in cryptocurrency. ‘‘Thankfully the judge decided not to except it’’ (sic). Asked if he felt sorry for the people he had scammed he initially said ‘‘I may have been deceptive about who I am, but that’s not a crime’’. The Star-Times sent him links to stories that detailed his many offences. He said offering money to men for sex was not a crime, and disputed the man’s allegations. ‘‘What I will say is that there have been no charges proven against me in any jurisdiction. ‘‘No jurisdiction has laid criminal charges nor approached me relating to any criminal offending.’’ However, he does have something to say regarding his criminal offending in New Zealand. ‘‘As to my past I am truly sorry for my prior offending and regret any and all negative impacts I have had on those affected. ‘‘If I could take it all back I would.’’ Asked how anyone could trust his apology given his history of fraud, Eaglesome said he was ‘‘grateful’’ to anyone who accepted his purported remorse. ‘‘I make no demands and have no expectations of anyone who feels that they have been wronged by me. My apology is made. Whether they accept it or not is up to them.’’ He claimed to have a ‘‘core group of people’’, who know everything about his criminal past. ‘‘Those are the friendships that I value the most and with those seven individuals I am able to be myself.’’ He declined to answer several questions including the fake names and lies about who he was, why he left New Zealand, and what his time in prison was like. ‘‘Goodbye and good day this is the end of our conversation,’’ he said. It would be the ‘‘first and final time’’, he would speak with the Star-Times, he said. The Star-Times was earlier granted access to Eaglesome’s list of convictions. The list shows he was first convicted as a 17-year-old in the Christchurch District Court in 1993 on several theft and fraudrelated charges. He was jailed later the same year in the Nelson District Court after a further spate of offending. The pattern continued over the next 10 years and in 2003 he was jailed for two years after admitting 23 charges of fraudulently using a document, two of theft, three of theft from houses, and one of false pretences. Eaglesome told his probation officer at the time he was visiting family before going to rejoin his partner and children in Argentina. Instead, he started a crime spree with a stay at a top hotel in Auckland under the alias Ari Ben Yitzhak and ran up a bill of almost $2000. He was caught, released on bail, and went on the run, heading for Wellington where he befriended a man and stole his bank card. A series of bank card offences followed. Eaglesome came to Christchurch pretending to be Father Anthony Garibaldi, a new priest whose clothes had been lost in transit from Sydney. He managed to persuade a Catholic church to lend him a cassock and vestments for his ordination. He then went on to Queenstown, where he became English doctor Angus Harrow, who befriended a group of tourists and stole their cellphones while he was socialising with them. Eaglesome was jailed again in 2006 under another name for sexually violating and indecently assaulting an 18-year-old backpacker and indecently assaulting another youth. While in prison, he was reprimanded for impersonating a corrections officer. Then, in 2018 he was jailed again. The convicted sex offender was released in October, 2020, with conditions that lasted six months. Shortly before those conditions ended, he was charged with breaching them after it was revealed he tried to rent a luxury apartment and promised to fill it with wealthy clients for $500 a night. He failed to show up at court twice before fleeing the country. New Zealand Police earlier said they were aware Eaglesome was overseas, but had no further comment.