Conman refused parole, but will be released

Convicted fraudster Alex Bergen goes by many aliases. Photo: NZ Herald
Convicted fraudster Alex Bergen goes by many aliases. Photo: NZ Herald
A prolific Canterbury conman and sex offender has been refused parole because he is deemed too high risk - but will be freed in October when his prison sentence ends.

And it has been revealed that Alex Oliver Bergen has not been treated in relation to his offending while in prison and has been "abusive and demanding" behind bars.

In October 2018 Bergen was sentenced to two years and three months' imprisonment for managing a company while prohibited and making a false statement.

Over the years he has also been known as Wayne Jury Eaglesome, George Von Rothschild, Father Antony Garibaldi, Dr Angus Harrow, Alex Newman, Bernhardt Bentinck, Bernhardt Augustus Longwater, Barnaby Gordon, Richard Mountjoy, Alex Bauer and Ari Ben Yitzhak.

The con artist has claimed to have been a super-yacht owning Harvard graduate and multi-millionaire, confidant to Saudi princes, a World Bank tax analyst, long-standing member of the New York State Bar Association, and grandson of a top surgeon who once saved the life of Fidel Castro's wife.

In 2003, he was pulled over in a taxi near Kaikoura wearing the robes of a priest and carrying a stolen credit card.

n 2006 he was jailed for five years after sexually violating and indecently assaulting an 18-year-old backpacker and indecently assaulting another youth.

He then set up a tourism industry company despite being a disqualified company director.

And he was convicted of ripping off 2degrees for tens of thousands.

After he was jailed in 2018 he tried to keep his name secret but after a protracted series of hearings at Christchurch District Court, Judge Gilbert refused name suppression.

Bergen appeared before the Parole Board last month and convinced them he was no longer a risk to the community.

"He has 12 pages of previous convictions involving a broad range of dishonesty and breaches of Court orders, together with some sexual offending in his past," said board chairman Sir Ron Young.

"When we saw him last in August 2019 there was a suggestion that there might not be treatment available for Mr Bergen before release.

"That was a surprising proposition given his high [risk of reoffending rate] and his long history of offending.

"In any event, the board strongly urged the Department (of Corrections to provide some appropriate treatment for Mr Bergen addressed at his risk given his history of dishonesty."

Since then, little progress had been made.

Sir Ron said Bergen was said to be uncooperative with a parole report writer in court and had been "abusive and demanding within the prison".

"We consider Mr Bergen remains a high risk of reoffending," he said.

"Our assessment of course has to be based on risk and currently Mr Bergen is an untreated offender with a very long history of dishonesty.

"He has no safety plan. He then said that no one had helped him in the prison to prepare such a plan.

"Whatever the reasons or causes for his failure to have a safety plan, the fact is he does not have a useful safety plan. That absence is highly relevant to his risk."

Sir Ron said the board was satisfied that Bergen was an undue risk and could not be released on parole.

However his sentence end date was approaching and he could not be kept in prison beyond that.

He will be released on October 11.

Although the board could not keep him behind bars, it was able to impose a number of strict post-release conditions for six monts.

"We express the strong hope that Corrections will arrange for assistance to Mr Bergen to prepare an appropriate safety plan before his release, and if at all possible, some one‑on‑one counselling with the psychologist," said Sir Ron in the parole decision, released this week.

The conditions include a ban on Bergen handing money, providing advice or management for the financial accounts or transactions, of any person or entity unless he had express permission from his probation officer.

He is also banned from operating a credit card and applying for or accepting any loans without permission.


After his name suppression lapsed last year the Herald was able to report on his most recent conviction.

During the suppression hearings, experienced local defence counsel Colin Easson asked to withdraw from representing Bergen after saying he was being asked by his client to do things he felt were "unethical".

Bergen tried changing his name to Barnaby Gordon just before he was convicted.

Judge Gilbert checked who he was speaking to in the dock: "So, your name is Barnaby Gordon?"

"I think so," the serial con artist replied.

"You think so?" asked a bemused judge.

There was a considerable public interest in Bergen because of his repeated frauds, the judge said.

The constant name changes have helped him to continue to offend, he added.

"For that reason, suppressing your name is very much contrary to public interest. The public has a right to know about you," Judge Gilbert said.

Bergen had claimed that he'd changed his name again to Bauer, but couldn't provide any proof.

And he also alleged that he'd renounced his New Zealand citizenship – again claims the court couldn't establish.

"The difficulty with you, Mr Bergen, is one doesn't know when you are telling the truth and when you are not," Judge Gilbert said.

"You, in making the assertions to me in the past, were simply trying to mislead me to your own ends."

Bergen challenged the decision at the High Court.

At the outset of that hearing, the court heard that he was no longer pursuing the suppression appeal, but rather, was appealing his prison sentence.

In that hearing, his new lawyer Trudi Aickin, told the court that Bergen had voluntarily returned from overseas to New Zealand to face the charges after being told he was being investigated.

Bergen says he does not need to remain in New Zealand following his release from prison, Aickin said.

He is an Israeli citizen, with an Israeli passport, he'd told her.

And he claimed to have access to cryptocurrency funds that he could cash in after his release from prison.

-By Anna Leask with additional reporting from Kurt Bayer


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