MP called New York escort service before being extorted

Liberal Party factional player Gareth Ward rang a number listed on escort agency websites when he was the victim of a late-night extortion attempt in New York.

News Corp Australia has obtained the official New York City Police Department complaint report of the 2017 incident, filed on the night Mr Ward was extorted for $1000 during his trip to the US. The report includes the phone number he dialled to order a massage before two men arrived at his swanky hotel.

The same number was listed online for numerous sexually explicit escort agencies, including ­EscortFish.

Mr Ward denied he was soliciting an escort, which is illegal in New York with a penalty of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1000.

Mr Ward with Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Facebook
Mr Ward with Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Facebook

But he declined to respond to questions about which massage parlour he was calling that had the same phone number as the escort agencies.

"I'm not surprised the phone number is in the police report - I willingly provided it to the police when I made the complaint," he said.

"I was not soliciting an escort. I totally reject any impropriety. I made clear at the time that I asked the gentlemen to leave my room, which was when threats were made against me."

Mr Ward is integral to Premier Gladys Berejiklian's re-election campaign as head of the NSW Liberal Party's key seat committee, which oversees vulnerable electorates.

Ms Berejiklian declined to say whether it was appropriate for Mr Ward, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra, to call a phone number used by ­escort agencies.

"I expect all Members of Parliament to conduct themselves with the highest standards," she said. "Mr Ward has denied any wrongdoing."

CCTV from the lift the Intercontinental Hotel in New York in August 2017.
CCTV from the lift the Intercontinental Hotel in New York in August 2017.

The Kiama MP was on a trip to the US and staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan on August 29, 2017 when two men arrived at his hotel room, claiming he had "sexually solicited" a minor and threatening to put the information on the internet if he did not pay up.

At the time, Mr Ward said: "I asked for a massage and what was clear was that there was more on offer and when I made it clear that was not what I wanted I asked them to leave. Who doesn't ask for a massage when they are on holiday?

"I know how it looks but I can assure you this is nothing short of attempted robbery."

A NYPD spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph the report was a "legitimate complaint report". "After an extensive investigation the case has been closed."

The mobile phone number contained in the report, which has now been disconnected, was listed on numerous escort agency websites, most of which The Daily Telegraph has declined to name.

On EscortFish, a post states "the provider … has been active since 02-07-2017 and has posted 10 ads in 8 cities". Another post on EscortFish says "New To The Scene & 100%REAL PICTURES".

CCTV from the lift the Intercontinental Hotel in New York in August 2017 shows MP Gareth Ward and two unidentified men who tried to extort him.
CCTV from the lift the Intercontinental Hotel in New York in August 2017 shows MP Gareth Ward and two unidentified men who tried to extort him.

CCTV footage of the incident obtained by The Daily Telegraph shows Mr Ward walking into the hotel lift on the hotel's 33rd floor with the two men, both dressed in peak caps and white T-shirts.

Mr Ward has a brief conversation with one of the men before all three walk out of the lift in the hotel lobby.

Mr Ward is then seen entering the lift on the lobby, where he looks down at his mobile phone before getting back out on the 33rd floor.

Separate CCTV footage taken from inside the hotel shows the two men casually walking through the lobby.

Mr Ward, who is part of the moderate faction, was accused in May of leading a push to undermine federal Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis's preselection bid.

Additional reporting by Sarah Blake



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