A west Auckland man is warning his community not to give money to young teens begging after he was attacked by members of a group on Monday at Royal Heights shopping centre.
Warren, a Massey local whose last name has been kept anonymous, was abused and had his car door kicked in after trying to take a photo of the begging operation. The leader even threatened to kill him.
"This whole setup was run virtually like Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, with the Fagan character - that's how this operation seems to run."
He was waiting for his wife who was at the doctor when he saw the group working. They were all Caucasian in appearance, and arrived in a white Toyota van, he says.
"They all turn up in a van, and the driver and passenger stay in the van. The side door opens and they all get out and disperse through the shopping centre.
"It's a dirty scheme. They almost hassle you for money."
He says a teenage boy asked him for cash. "He said how his mother was in hospital and he was desperate to get some money, and he threw his hands around and showed all the anguish under the sun - brilliant actors.
"If these kids joined the theatre company they'd be successful. That's how clever they are. In the end I said 'no' and he walked away."
Warren then saw the boy with a teenage girl near an ATM at the shops, and when someone gave them money he saw what looked like the group's leader come out of the van and approach the teens.
"My impression was he was coming out, taking the money and sending them out to get some more."
Warren reported what he saw to the police, and he and his wife left the shops. As they were leaving, he tried to take a photo of the van, but the group's leader saw him.
"This Fagan guy got extremely agitated - 'You don't take any [expletive] photos of me...' - all the language under the sun came out.
"He came over to the car and reached his hand inside the car to try get the phone from me, then he kicked the door in, and mouthed off all the language under the sun and told me he was going to kill me."
Another woman soon intervened when she recognised the van after having just given $10 of petrol to them at the nearby Mobil.
"She abused the living hell out of this guy for kicking the car inâ€¦ She said 'I come up here and I see you scumbags scheming and thieving and trying to get money off everybody else.' She was so irate she rang the police too and reported them."
After Warren's daughter posted about the ordeal on social media, others in the west Auckland community have shared similar experiences with the same group of beggars in places like Swanson.
"One woman replied that's why she is so scared to go shopping up at Countdown now," Warren says.
"This is why I say if only we could get it out there to people, to understand these kids don't deserve to be given money."
Warren's been living in Massey more than 20 years and hasn't seen an incident like it before.
"Don't give these kids money. They don't need pitying; they need to be shamed completely."
Police say they are following "positive lines of enquiry" in relation to the incident.