Yacht lies: Conman faked his death
A conman who hosted up to 28 people in a rented Christchurch dosshouse once claimed to be a millionaire – then faked his death.
Bernhardt Bentinck, 41, also known as Wayne Eaglesome, is a convicted fraudster and sex offender with two dozen aliases.
The Press revealed last week he had duped a property manager to rent a five-bedroom Avonside home, then packed it with customers paying up to $125 a week to live there.
Bentinck previously used the alias Alex Newman – a supposed millionaire who travelled the world on his 49-metre superyacht.
Danish backpacker Anders Jensen and a friend met ‘‘Newman’’ at a backpackers in Auckland in February 2012.
Newman offered the pair a job on his yacht Thalia. They would be paid nearly $50,000 for six months’ work as ‘‘Boy Friday’’. The yacht was to leave in March, from Nelson. Newman said their salaries would be paid by Simmons&Simmons of Brussels, to an account in Monaco.
Jensen, who received a formal employment offer via email, thought the job was a ‘‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’’.
Sixteen days before they were to set sail Jensen emailed Newman for an update.
‘‘I have tried to call you the last couple of days, but without luck. We are currently in Christchurch and we have not heard from the skipper yet.’’
Ten minutes later, he received a reply: ‘‘Alexander had a massive heart attack and is in hospital; I am his mum!’’
And 21 minutes after that another email was sent: ‘‘He has had a stroke and it appears he may not live.’’
Less than a week later, Jensen received the bad news from Newman’s ‘‘mother’’: ‘‘Alexander passed away my family is now mourning him formally we are very saddened by our loss.’’
Jensen said he was ‘‘very sad’’ to get the ‘‘shocking news’’. He asked what would happen with the sailing plans.
Newman’s mother said the yacht had been gifted to children’s charity Unicef and lawyers would ‘‘make gifts’’ to its contracted crew, so Jensen and his friend might get some money.
Newman’s supposed brother ‘‘Horatio Newman’’ emailed Jensen saying he and his friend would get $5000 each from his brother’s estate. However, because of the size of his estate, it would take up to 12 months before they would get the money.
Horatio Newman said his brother left more than $195 million in cash and $350m in property ‘‘to Israel’’ and charities as well as his family. Charities in New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, the United States and Britain would receive money.
His brother’s lawyers would be in touch when the money was available. He said the family would be in mourning for 28 days and asked Jensen not to contact him.
‘‘The lawyers have been ordered to contact you; now you must wait. Legally the lawyers don’t have to give you a thing. Anymore [sic] emails asking for money and you will get nothing.’’
Jensen did not hear from any of the Newmans again.
Two years later, Jensen was back studying in Denmark. Still waiting to get his money, he contacted Simmons&Simmons, only to be told they had ‘‘never had contact’’ with Newman. No file had ever been opened in his name.
Not long after a friend of his sent him a
link to an article about Newman’s real identity. The man he thought was dead was actually a prolific conman and the yacht he was supposed to be working on belonged to Russian billionaire Mikhail Khimich, owner of the Waiwera Group of companies. ‘‘It was all bulls…,’’ Jensen said. ‘‘We truly believed everything. He was very kind and convincing.
‘‘The job was really well paid and a big opportunity for me to experience the world and earn money.’’
He had a ‘‘strange feeling’’ when he was told Newman had died and left his yacht to Unicef, but never thought it was ‘‘a big scam’’.
Bentinck did not respond to a request for comment.
The conman is being investigated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) after The Press discovered he had set up a company despite being a disqualified director due to his criminal offending.
Bentinck used his tourismrelated company Ugly House Services in his application to rent the Avonside home for two years through property management company Champagne Homes.