Kaikōura man fined for impersonating fishery officer and extorting money from tourists

A Kaikōura man has been fined for pretending to be a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) fishery officer to extort tourists.

Daniel James appeared in Kaikōura District Court on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to one charge of falsely claiming to be a fishery officer. 

He was fined $600 and ordered to pay $130 in court costs.

In November 2018, the 42-year-old apprehended three French tourists who had been diving in South Bay.

He told them he was a fishery officer, and was there to measure their catch.

After measuring the fish with his hands, he told the group two of their fish were undersized and the third was unfit for consumption.

He said by law, he should take all their equipment and their car, and send them to court.

According to James, the tourists needed to pay $1,600 for their first fish and $700 for their second. 

He added he would waive his falsified fine if the group gave him $200 cash.

The group asked James for a business card, or proof of identification, but he told them it was his day off, and his cards were in the office.

He told the tourists to pay up, or else he would take their passports and set a court date for them.

The group paid the fraudulent fishery impersonator, in belief it was payment for a fine.

"His actions in falsely representing himself as a fishery officer are viewed as serious and something that could undermine the public's trust in the law," MPI spokesperson Howard Reid said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We are grateful to the Kaikōura locals who looked after the tourists and encouraged them to report this incident to MPI and police."

As well as his fines, James was ordered to pay $200 in reparation to the tourists he extorted.