Dumb criminals of 2011

03:00, Dec 28 2011

They say crime doesn't pay, and it certainly won't if you're as dumb as some criminals were in 2011. Michael Daly reports.

It sounds like something out of a cartoon, but a couple of burglars in Oamaru really did leave their footprints in the snow, leading police right to them.

While they may well be frontrunners for the title of the stupidest criminals of 2011, they do have plenty of competition.

There was the woman who gave a false name and ran off from a Botox clinic without paying, but she had been photographed before the treatment, which was something of a giveaway.

Or how about the burglars who took photos of themselves partying on a cruise boat in Blenheim, then left the camera behind?

Or the shoplifter who made his getaway on a bus, the woman who tried to sneak cannabis concealed in tinfoil through an airport metal detector, or the accountant who attracted the attention of Inland Revenue through the discrepancies between his earnings and what he owned?


Fortunately for police and the law abiding among us, many of those who stray have little in common with fictional criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes' arch enemy.

So it was that in August, in the midst of New Zealand's most widespread snow in 70 years, Lemual Jason MacDonald, 39, along with his 17-year-old son, decided to throw a rock through the window of an Oamaru dairy and break in.

Police said the pair had wanted to steal synthetic cannabinoid Kronic, but they became aware the occupants lived on the premises and so quickly grabbed five packets of chips and icecream and took off ... into the snow.

They hid the stolen items in an alleyway before heading home, leaving a trail of footprints leading right to their front door. Police tracked the footprints to the pair the next day.

MacDonald was sentenced to 200 hours community work and ordered to pay $111 for the smashed window.

Genna Anne Hollows, 29, earned herself the title of Botox bandit after doing a runner from a Christchurch Botox clinic without paying .

She went to the clinic in July, having five photos taken before treatment. When she went to pay she said she had left her wallet in the car and was last seen running down the road.

Staff were unable to contact her; she didn't live at the address supplied; she didn't return phone calls; and had given a false name, police said.

When her picture was published in newspapers around the country, several people contacted police to identify Hollows.

When caught, she told police she gave false details at the clinic because she was embarrassed and didn't want staff to know her identity. When she left the clinic she saw a former boyfriend and was further embarrassed, so she ran away.

She was ordered to pay the $780 she owed the clinic, and given 60 hours of community work.

While Hollows' getaway was a giveaway, she would have been in trouble even if her departure from the clinic had been smooth.

But had Christchurch shoplifter Jeffrey Paul Palmer been able to elude his pursuers, the outcome for him might have been different. Problem was he chose a bus as his means of leaving the scene of his offending.

The bus was followed by Northlands shopping centre staff to Eastgate mall, where the 27-year-old morphine user got off and was arrested.

Defence counsel said drugs were at the root of all the offending. Palmer stole to support his habit, and swapped the shoplifted items for drugs, or sold them for money to buy drugs.

Palmer, who had breached a community detention sentence, was sentenced to prison, with special release conditions for six months to undertake drug and alcohol assessment and attend any programmes recommended by his probation officer.

As with the Botox bandit, photos were also the downfall of four men who in December took pictures of themselves partying on the River Queen cruise boat in Blenheim, then left their camera behind.

They were arrested in connection with the burglary of the boat after being identified by police using the photos which showed the men drinking alcohol on board late into the night.

Would be car thieves in Auckland also landed in trouble after leaving something behind at a crime scene.

Two men were disturbed trying to break into the vehicle in November. They left behind a duffel bag – containing a cellphone and named prescription medicine – which had been used to smash the car's window.

The wife of one of the offenders called on the cellphone and Lloyd Shaw, the man who disturbed the offenders, got her to describe her husband. The description matched one of the men who had been trying to break into the vehicle.

When the woman learned what her husband had been up to she went "ballistic", a newspaper reported Shaw as saying.

"She was freaking out about his medication. I said, `Well he better go hand himself in then'."

The bag was handed over to police.

Then there was the case of the man who seemed drawn to a Nelson sex shop, even though, his lawyer told the court, he did not have a particular interest in the items he took.

Paul Robert Goodin twice broke in by smashing a window in the shop's door, stealing adult magazines, a sex toy and DVDs.

Both times he cut himself, leaving blood at the scene, and was caught after police matched a DNA sample from him to his blood.

A third attempt to break in was thwarted by a security mesh that had been put over the door after the earlier burglaries.

In Nelson District Court in December Goodin admitted two charges of burglary and one of wilful damage. He was sentenced to six months' community detention and nine months' supervision, and ordered to pay $1089 reparation.

His lawyer said Goodin did not have a particular interest in the items he took. It was simply opportunistic offending fuelled by alcohol.

Even those involved in complex crimes can end up giving themselves away.

Take for instance Hamilton accountant Gary Soffe. Inland Revenue caught up with him when it began investigating significant discrepancies between what he earned last year and what he owned.

The Crown said the scope of Soffe's offending was calculated and difficult to detect.

But after being clever on that count, he used the money to build a showy mansion with a swimming pool, hydroslide and floodlit tennis court, bought coastal properties in Whangamata and Mt Maunganui and paid for trips overseas.

In Hamilton District Court in July he was sentenced to five years and one month in prison on one charge of false accounting and nine of theft by a person in a special relationship.

The charges dated back to 2006 and related to Soffe stealing more than $4.2 million from eight different trusts, all linked to one family.

Towards the end of the year the alleged activities of former Thames boy Hohepa Morehu-Barlow also came to light after he apparently drew too much attention to himself.

Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, allegedly defrauded his employer Queensland Health of $A16 million (NZ$21m).

Court documents show senior bureaucrats were alerted in November after a payment of $A11m from Queensland Health accounts to a business registered to Morehu-Barlow.

He had claimed to be a Tahitian royal and was living in a $A5.65m riverfront Brisbane apartment. Five days before the alleged fraud was discovered, Morehu-Barlow also bought two jetskis and wakeboarding accessories costing more than $A43,000.

Morehu-Barlow was found unconscious in his apartment by private security guards watching the property.

He appeared in court on a single charge of defrauding Queensland Health of $A11 million. His case was adjourned until January 16.

Returning to simpler matters, there was the case of the 52-year-old woman found with cannabis in her bra at Queenstown Airport in April. She set off a metal detector when trying to get the drug – wrapped in tinfoil – onto a Christchurch-bound flight.

It was a case of her being foiled ... by foil.Fairfax NZ

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