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Dommy Topia pictured during interviews for ‘The 21 NZ’ + excerpts of correspondence between  Topia and videographer Dan Wood (Supplied)
Dommy Topia pictured during interviews for ‘The 21 NZ’ + excerpts of correspondence between Topia and videographer Dan Wood (Supplied)

SocietyMay 5, 2018

Dozens come forward to accuse Insta-scammer of swindling them out of thousands

Dommy Topia pictured during interviews for ‘The 21 NZ’ + excerpts of correspondence between  Topia and videographer Dan Wood (Supplied)
Dommy Topia pictured during interviews for ‘The 21 NZ’ + excerpts of correspondence between Topia and videographer Dan Wood (Supplied)

Almost 20 more people have been in touch with The Spinoff to relay their experiences with Dommy Topia, whose actions were first brought to light via Instagram this week. And it’s clear Topia’s been pulling the same tricks for years.

Dozens of people have come forward accusing Dominic (Dommy) Topia of scamming them out of thousands of dollars, with incidents dating back as far as 2012.

Since The Spinoff broke the story of Topia’s elaborate scam against Kiwi bloggers, business owners, creatives and influencers on Thursday, almost 20 individuals have been in touch to relay their experiences with the man behind The 21 NZ, a documentary series about “21 inspiring, motivated, goal-setting, career-driven, creative thinking” individuals that has since been exposed as a front. Topia told many of those interviewed that he was strapped for cash due to a terminal brain tumour.

One of the people who came forward was The 21 NZ videographer Dan Wood whose studio NinetyOne Visual was commissioned to shoot the project. In total, Wood says he’s owed roughly $1,500 for his work and a further $700 for a camera lens he purchased with assurances he would be reimbursed for his costs.

“At first we agreed to shoot two interviews with payment proceeding. However, as soon as the time came for him to pay, he revealed over an excited phone call that he’d been privately funded for the entirety of the project at the sum of $20,000,” says Wood. “He said he’d been contacted via Instagram by a wealthy couple who wanted to be a part of the project. His initial story was that they were property developers and had agreed to put $20,000 over the next year towards the project.”

“I thought this sounded a little too good to be true and finalised a date within two weeks of the most recent shoot for payment. In this time, I shot over six of the interviews out of the nine I completed. When the two weeks went by I began to hear excuses which I’d ultimately never hear the end of.”

“As of now, I’m still paying off the debt and it’s taken a long time to recover from the missing income I’d counted on from having turned down other work opportunities to film for him.”

Correspondence between NinetyOne Visual’s Dan Wood and Dommy Topia (@the21NZ) via Instagram chat (supplied)

But the extent of Topia’s actions has been revealed to predate The 21 NZ. In 2012/2013, Charlotte Rout says she lost close to $2,000 when she and Topia dated on-and-off for a while. He told Rout at the time he was dying from a brain tumour and had six months to live.

“Despite knowing I was facing being a single parent, he continued to scam me out of money until another lady informed me of the truth,” recalls Rout. “He would tell me that he was waiting on payments from WINZ, that he was waiting on money from teaching jobs but they were withholding the money, that he needed money to cover rent and food. He would always promise to pay it back. I saw maybe $200 of it.”

“I haven’t heard from him since mid-2013 at which time he claimed to be reformed and would pay me [back] weekly which happened for maybe two weeks. Because I was only giving him a couple of hundred at a time, it was a while before I realised how much I had lost to him.”

Rout says she was partially convinced by Topia’s claims after discovering a 2012 Nelson Mail article about his positive work as a sports coach for Nelson College for Girls. The article describes Topia as being “struck down with health issues” and how he was held in “high regard” by the families of the students he had mentored. He told the newspaper at the time that he moved down to Nelson “with no family here, and while I was in hospital I got visits from nearly every parent in my team.”

Dommy Topia during interviews shot by Dan Wood last year (Photo: Dan Wood/NinetyOne Visual)

Benjamin Aupa’au also got in touch with The Spinoff accusing Topia of stealing approximately $1,200 from a group of four people who were organising a charity boxing match in 2016/2017. Aupa’au had signed up to fight in a boxing match to raise money for Cure Kids, the children’s health charity. Tickets to the fight were sold for $300 a seat and Topia – who Aupa’au had met in a Parnell bar at the beginning of 2016 – said he was keen to come and support.

“$300 is a lot of money, but I thought nothing of it. I figured he was supporting the cause, especially given his own troubles with cancer so it made sense,” recalls Aupa’au. “As the days went on, he ended up suggesting that he round up all of my mates [who had planned to get a table of 10 seats together]. He started messaging [everyone] who had put their hands up to come to the event and was arranging payment details to buy the table. He ended up collecting $300 each from four of my friends (totalling to $1,200).”

“Time passed and he still hadn’t bought the table [and] every day he had an excuse… My real friend ended up buying the table on his credit card and we told Dom to just transfer the money which led to more excuses heavily based around his brain tumour and blocked bank accounts. He even doctored a fake bank transaction screenshot – I knew it was fake as I checked at the bank.”

“He ended up just going cold, not messaging back or answering calls. In the end, I never got a hold of him and never got the $1,200 [which] I ended up having to pay my friend every cent back as I felt responsible. A few friends have seen him partying in town since and have threatened him. He’s still adamant that he’ll pay me back.”

Nick Sadler, who was one of the four friends of Aupa’au’s who had paid Topia $300 for a boxing match seat, also got in touch to corroborate the story.

Ruby Colle’s initial post attracted comments from plenty of others accusing Topia of similar behaviour, including The Bachelor NZ star Art Green.

Aupa’au adds that prior to the boxing match, Topia also started a social men’s basketball team. Aupa’au – along with eight other people – agreed to join the team and paid Topia $100 each in fees to pay the organiser. “We played about three games and then Dommy stopped playing which coincided with when things started to get suspicious with the boxing table scam,” recalls Aupa’au. “Myself and my mate from the team then got emails from the organiser saying that the rest of our fees were due and that only the $150 deposit had been paid with $850 outstanding.”

“He also arranged basketball uniforms for our team through his ‘contact’ in Wellington. Again, he gave us the price which was about $45 each which we paid. Towards the end of last year… we needed more jerseys for new players so got in contact with the company that made our original ones. They said the’d be happy to make us more jerseys as long as we pay the outstanding invoice first! Once again, he had only paid a deposit and then not answered any calls from them.”

Jacqueline Hickey was also scammed by Topia in excess of $600 back in 2016. Topia told Hickey at the time that he was a children’s book author (a similar claim was levelled at several others who reached out to The Spinoff) and that his full-time job was to manage a team at Starship Hospital who would give respite care to parents with premature babies or children with cancer. However, when Hickey contacted Starship Hospital following several failed attempts to recover the money she had lent him, the hospital told her there was no employee by the name of Dominic Topia working at Starship and that the role he described did not exist. Hickey continued to pursue Topia until April 2017 by which point her phone number had been blocked.

Email from Starship Hospital to Jacqueline Hickey regarding Topia’s claims (Supplied)

Several other individuals have been in touch with The Spinoff to say they’ve been scammed out of a significant amount of money by Topia in the past. These include former girlfriends, dates, flatmates and friends who have accused Topia of everything from dodgy business dealings to excessive credit card usage on alcohol and gambling. Most of these individuals have requested to remain anonymous but claim Topia swindled anywhere from $150 to more than $1,200 per person.

Topia has been approached for comment several times by The Spinoff but has yet to respond. However, he told the NZ Herald on Thursday night that he “never conned anyone” out of any money. “I just need to get back to 100% and I’ll give back what people helped me with.” The Herald also reported that Topia was convicted of theft in April this year and sentenced to community work.

Read more: The Instagram scammer who ripped off NZ’s top social media influencers

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