NSW state MP Gareth Ward has denied claims he ordered a "special massage" in New York City this week, claiming to have been the victim of an extortion attempt from two boys at a hotel.
The New York Daily News reported Ward, the member for the seat of Kiama, was "staying at the Intercontinental Hotel on 44th St. near Broadway when he decided to request a 'special massage'," but was greeted at his door by two young men, one claiming to be 16 years old. The Daily News said one of the boys began filming on his mobile phone, and demanded $1000 from Ward or "we're going to tell everyone we're minors".
Ward reported the incident to the hotel's front desk, whereupon police were called and the boys fled.
In statements to 9 News and the ABC, Ward denied he had ordered a "special massage" and had in fact only asked for a standard service.
Statement from @garethjward to the ABC:— 97.3 ABC Illawarra (@973ABCIllawarra) August 30, 2017
"I asked for a massage - but when it became clear that more was offer, I asked them to leave..." 1/2
".. then they became aggressive demanding money. I reported the matter to police and the matter is subject to investigation." 2/2— 97.3 ABC Illawarra (@973ABCIllawarra) August 30, 2017
"I mean, 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," Ward told the Daily Telegraph.
Ward has been in state parliament since 2011, and is a popular figure in his local community on the state's south coast. He is the parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast.
Earlier this month, Ward referred himself to the Independent Commission Against Corruption regarding his involvement in property acquisition in relation to a road bypass in his local area, after a stoush with the mayor.