– Josh had been on the run for days, making it nearly halfway across the country before he was arrested. Afraid the authorities were on to his latest scam, the veteran conman had panicked, fleeing the Gold Coast, allegedly in a stolen BMW.
Now sought by police in four states, he made a run for it through Queensland and New South Wales, driving more than 2000 kilometres before finally being picked up in Adelaide.
The arrest late last year ended an 18-month spree of alleged scams and frauds that saw Joshua Peter McIntosh fleece at least 20 victims of cash, luxury cars, appliances, furniture and months of accommodation in top-end rental properties.
Along the way he posed as a V8 Supercar driver, highly paid construction executive, cafe/bar owner and an entrepreneur, running cons in some of the wealthiest areas of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The 43-year-old, who has been described as a man with the airs, graces and trappings of a person of substance, proved smooth enough to talk one shop manager out of $5000 in cash and fool experienced estate agents into handing over keys to million-dollar properties.
His gift-of-the-gab even saw him walk out of a St Kilda tattoo parlour on a promise to pay for the work.
In one brazen act, McIntosh allegedly posed as an entrepreneur in buying a Scooter Hut franchise, ingratiating himself with staff to the point where he was entrusted with taking to a bank $5000 that was never deposited.
Last year, Fairfax Media exposed a rental scam McIntosh ran on landlords in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs, in which fake electronic payments were used to lease $1000 to $2000-a-week properties.
Pleading bank errors or a death in the family, McIntosh would stall estate agents for weeks until eventually being evicted by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Unpaid rent bills total more than $44,000 in Victoria and NSW.
A similar scam was run on at least 10 short-stay accommodation providers in three states, with operators losing more than $20,500.
Faked electronic transfers were also allegedly used as down payments at luxury car dealerships, with McIntosh leveraging the pending sale to get access to loan vehicles that he drove for weeks.
Bib Stillwell BMW sales manager Marcus Campagna said McIntosh bought a $118,000 X5 in November 2011, but asked for a demonstrator car to dive until his new model was ready.
“We got a text message saying his father had passed away and he couldn’t pick up the new car till later in the week. But he kept delaying, three weeks went by; meanwhile, it turns out the deposit never arrived in our account,” he said.
“I told him if he didn’t return (the demonstrator) immediately I’d be forced to involve the police. The car was returned the next day, but at a different showroom. I know this has happened to at least five other dealerships.”
Victims of his scams say McIntosh was sighted driving different models of BMW and Mercedes, as well as a Range Rover, Ford Territory, and Holden Commodore.
Debt collectors and store owners are also believed to be chasing McIntosh for potentially tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid utility and phone bills, as well as for goods taken on credit but never paid for.
One landlord said NSW police seized several high-end appliances belonging to stores in Victoria stashed at a property to which McIntosh had scammed access near Sydney.
McIntosh reportedly often turned up at the leased properties with only a few suitcases of clothes, a metre-high statue of Buddha and a bulldog.
Others have been disturbed by McIntosh’s willingness to use his adolescent son as part of his cover when staging scams.
“Josh took his son through the property and his son picked a room. After I found out what happened – what he was like – I felt sick that you could do that with your kid,” said one property manager, who evicted McIntosh after he faked a payment on the bond and rent for a $2 million property in Elwood.
The owner of a collectables shop in Brighton said McIntosh also had his son pick out expensive remote-controlled cars, which he tried to take on credit.
At the same shop he later tried, unsuccessfully, to buy a life-sized replica of King Tutankhamun’s golden sarcophagus worth thousands.
Last week, McIntosh pleaded guilty in South Australia to several outstanding charges relating to property offences and a bail violation. He was jailed for nine months.
The magistrates court heard McIntosh was apprehended by police while in Adelaide to visit his son.
He will appear again in a South Australian court this month over charges relating to the alleged theft of the BMW on the Gold Coast.
Victoria Police have received at least 10 complaints about his activities, and several other incidents are under investigation in NSW and Queensland.
But victims say police indifference allowed McIntosh to operate for more than six months in Melbourne despite multiple complaints and even being offered chances to corner him.
Angela Cunningham, a property owner who lost nearly $10,000 in a rental scam, reported McIntosh’s activities to police in early 2012, but was told the issue was a civil matter. Ms Cunningham is believed to be at least the third person to report his activities by that time.
McIntosh has subsequently been linked to at least 10 other alleged scams here and interstate over the following nine months. At the time of the alleged incidents in 2011 and 2012, McIntosh, who has a record of convictions for dishonesty offences in other states, was already wanted in South Australia on charges relating to dishonesty offences and a bail violation.
“They’ve had no interest whatsoever in trying to catch him,” said Scooter Hut owner Scott Mackintosh, who reported the alleged theft of the $5000 cash in mid-2012.
“Before Josh knew I was on to him, I’d offered to set up a meeting where the police could come and question or arrest him. I had text messages acknowledging that he had the money and CCTV footage showing he took the money, but they said there wasn’t enough evidence. They just couldn’t be bothered.”
Victoria Police said detectives were investigating a series of alleged financial advantage by deception offences – Chris Vedelago