Revealed: Kiwi conman's long list of fake names

Convicted fraudster Alex Bergen goes by many aliases. Photo: NZME
Convicted fraudster Alex Bergen goes by many aliases. Photo: NZME
A prolific conman and sex offender jailed for his latest swindle has dropped a long-running fight to keep his names a secret.

Serial confidence trickster Alex Oliver Bergen goes by many names.

A quick list reads like a Continental phonebook: Wayne Jury Eaglesome, aka George Von Rothschild, aka Father Antony Garibaldi, aka Dr Angus Harrow, aka Alex Newman, aka Bernhardt Bentinck, aka Bernhardt Augustus Longwater, aka Barnaby Gordon, aka Richard Mountjoy, aka Alex Bauer, aka Ari Ben Yitzhak.

It has helped him move around New Zealand for years and spin yarns to inveigle his way into people's lives and, inevitably, their pockets.

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

But after his latest downfall – a business fraud – and Bergen argued for permanent name suppression after a dubious sob story, Christchurch District Court Judge Tom Gilbert wasn't falling for any of his old tricks.

The judge said the public needed to know who he is, in order to protect themselves from an "inveterate fraud" with a penchant for big lies.

Bergen was arrested in Auckland on July 5 last year.

The 42-year-old was initially granted interim name suppression by Judge Allan Roberts at Auckland District Court when he first appeared on charges laid by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) of making false statements in company registration documents.

Bergen - jailed in 2006 for five years after sexually violating and indecently assaulting an 18-year-old backpacker and indecently assaulting another youth - set up a tourism industry company despite being a disqualified company director.

He then ripped off 2degrees for tens of thousands.

Last October, he was jailed for two years, three months imprisonment.

He wanted to keep his name secret, but after a protracted series of hearings at Christchurch District Court, Judge Gilbert refused him name suppression. The judge saw through many of his claims.

"You, Mr Bergen, are an inveterate fraud," Judge Gilbert said, adding that he "lives the life of a conman".

His observations mirror previous parole reports which have detailed him as a narcissist and "prolific high-risk confidence man".

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

"He cut a dashing figure in those vestments, and he'd convinced all these people he was a priest," said the police officer who arrested him.

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 in the community, and on the community, 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.

This morning, Bergen, in prison clothes, ate a sandwich in the custody booth before he appealed via audio-visual link to Justice Francis Cooke.

At the outset of the hearing, the court heard that he was no longer pursuing the suppression appeal, but rather, was appealing against his sentence imposed of two years and three months imprisonment on October 18 last year, querying his prohibition period.

His latest 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 claims to have access to cryptocurrency funds that he could cash-in after his release from prison.

Justice Cooke reserved his decision.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter