Australia

Australian politician 'targeted by massage scam' at New York hotel

Gareth Ward Image copyright ABC/Justin Huntsdale
Image caption Gareth Ward says he was the victim of a blackmail attempt in the US

An Australian politician has said he was targeted by a blackmail scam after booking a massage to a New York hotel.

Gareth Ward, a New South Wales assembly member, said he was confronted by two "aggressive" visitors at his room.

They began filming him before demanding a "quantity of money", US police said.

Mr Ward said in a statement: "I asked for a massage - but when it became clear that more was on offer, I asked them to leave and then they became aggressive demanding money.

"I reported the matter to police and the matter is subject to investigation. The ordeal was frightening."

Mr Ward told Australian media that he had booked a "normal, standard massage" through a local website for $100.

Two men then arrived at his room at the Intercontinental Hotel on Tuesday, where he was staying on leave following a business trip.

"They said to me, 'We are underage, we will put this on the internet unless you give us money,'" he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which reported the demand was $1,000 (£750; A$1,250).

Mr Ward said he escaped by going downstairs and alerting hotel staff, having told the men he planned to withdraw money.

A spokesman for the New York Police Department said the pair then fled.

The matter was being investigated but no-one had been arrested, the spokesman said.

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