Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward has denied ordering a “special massage”, after reports emerged that he fell victim to a scam at a hotel in New York.
Mr Ward has spoken to the Mercury about his “terrifying ordeal”, which happened on Tuesday (New York time) while staying at the Intercontinental Hotel on a “self-funded holiday”.
“My first thought [was] there could be a knife, there could be a gun,” he told the Mercury, speaking from Canada, where he is attending a conference for parliamentarians with a disability.
“I was terrified, I was absolutely terrified.”
The New York media reported that Mr Ward, had ordered a “special massage”.
“A short time later, the Liberal Party member — who has a form of albinism and has been legally blind since birth — opened his door to find two males standing in the hallway,” New York Post reports said.
However, Mr Ward has said “claims [about] requesting a special massage are untrue”.
“I requested a normal massage as people on holidays will often do,” he said in a statement.
Mr Ward told the Mercury that the men who arrived in his room began shooting video on a phone while telling him they were underage and threatened him if he didn’t pay $1000.
According to a statement he said:
“I asked for a massage - but when it became clear that more was [on] offer, I asked them to leave, then they became aggressive demanding money.”
“I reported the matter to police and the matter is subject to investigation.”
He said police told him this kind of scam “happens all the time” and was not unusual.
He said he did not know if the “scammers” had targeted him because he was an Australian politician.