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Campbell Live

Scammers end Fiji holidays before they begin

Tuesday 28 Jun 2011 3:35 p.m.

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The view in Wellington is good, but it's not Fiji.

Josh Harris, his family, and two other families were meant to fly to Fiji this morning.

“Three couples - all with new born babies - wanted to have tropical holidays to show our wives we appreciate that new born baby thing, and really to prove international travel was possible for infants,” Mr Harris said.

Three months ago Josh went online to find a rental home in Fiji. He found a four bedroom luxury villa on Denerau Island.

He emailed the villa owners Craig Mudgway and Anita Cranston from Hilton Carrington Group and agreed on $750 a night - 50% upfront, and the remainder to be paid in full a month out from their stay.

“We agreed and paid half the deposit up front. They confirmed that and we booked our flights,” Mr Harris said.

A month before the holiday, Josh transferred another $1,800 into Anita Cranston's account as promised.

Then Anita Cranston emailed back to say the house was double booked..

“First we were frustrated, because the flights weren't transferable and expensive at that time to change to other dates,” Mr Harris said

Ms Cranston offered alternative accommodation at The Sheraton at their cost, but Josh declined, saying they wanted a house.

“She came up with some alternative dates that we could stay at the house, and we came to an agreement to pay for half the airfares and pick up some other accommodation that we'd booked that was non refundable”.

Meanwhile another group of Kiwis were set to arrive in Fiji, and stay at the same house.

They don't want to be identified, but between them they also paid Anita Cranston $5,600 in rental fees. Then the night before they were due to arrive they got this email from Craig Mudgway.

"Very unfortunate situation…. The property in Denarau that you have booked has temporarily been secured under a court order the previous owner in from 2007 who is currently residing in Australia".

Three days later the same letter from Craig Mudgway was received by Josh Harris in Wellington.

"Very unfortunate situation…. The property in Denarau that you have booked has temporarily been secured under a court order the previous owner in from 2007 who is currently residing in Australia".

Campbell Live wanted to find out what was going on, so we went to the offices of Hilton Carrington at the Viaduct in Auckland, but the company had shut up shop and left no forwarding address.

We managed to finally contact Anita Cranston this morning and asked her why the property in question was under a court seizure.

She said the property did belong to her but when questioned further about a court record that showed Craig Mudgway was ordered to vacate and release possession to the mortgage company, she wanted to clarify.

“If you ring the courts they would say there is a stay on that order which means what the judge says on that document is not going ahead until next Monday. That's why it’s given us time to defend it. The reason we contacted josh in the meantime,” Ms Cranston said.

When questioned on why she would rent the property and take money knowing there were issues, she denied there had been any.

However court documents show that as far back as a year ago the couple was being served with notices demanding them to vacate the property.

Ms Cranston says she’s apologetic, but the funds are with Fijian courts.

That doesn't help the couples who are out of pocket with a cancelled holiday.

“We’ve had many sleepless nights, so many tears about this. No one likes to think they’ve been scammed, but that’s how we feel. They had no intention of being able to fulfil that contract, and won’t even admit they intended to fulfil it,” Mr Harris said.

Their money was deposited into an account in the name of Anita Cranston Investments.

This evening there's no word on the money and Josh Harris and family have filed a complaint with the police.

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