Heavy jail terms in drugs gang case

Prison terms totalling nearly three decades were imposed today on the conspirators who ran a well organised drugs gang buying methamphetamine in Auckland and transporting it south to sell to Christchurch's drug users.

Five of the conspirators went to jail for terms ranging up to nine years four months, and three others got a year's home detention when sentenced by Justice John Fogarty in the High Court at Christchurch.

They had all pleaded guilty either just before or in the first three days of the trial arising from two months of police surveillance, known as Operation Dolmio.

Several had been remanded in custody and all eight lined up in the High Court today for sentence. It took 4½ hours.

Justice Fogarty described it as "easily the most difficult sentencing exercise I have had to work my way through".

Crown prosecutor Anne Toohey said the case arose from a series of purchases of methamphetamine in Auckland which were then transported south by a regular inter-island truck driver, and broken down to small portions for sale in Christchurch.

Justice Fogarty described it as "a well organised syndicate".

Allen Heremia Rockel, of Auckland, was jailed for five years two months.

He was one of the group's Auckland contacts, and had pleaded guilty before the trial.

Aaron Russell Dickie, another Aucklander, had protested at being labelled "a significant wholesaler in methamphetamine".

"You were involved in very socially evil conduct supplying very large quantities of methamphetamine," said Justice Fogarty, jailing him for four years 11 months.

Lyndon Vaughan Richardson was one of the Christchurch buyers who made regular trips north.

He received the longest sentence of nine years four months, including jail terms for unlawful possession of a shotgun and ammunition, possession of a precursor substance for making drugs, and receiving stolen goods including laptop computers, a hard-drive, a $5000 data projector, and a camera.

Darrin Stephen Baylis, a successful businessman who also went to Auckland to make the purchases, was jailed for four years and two months.

Justice Fogarty told him: "It is a pity that a man of your intelligence and business acumen has got involved in this.

"You were involved in a very serious level of offending by which quantities of methamphetamine were distributed to less fortunate people in Christchurch and causing a great deal of social harm as a result."

Lynda Marie Glover, Richardson's partner, was jailed for five years on the drug conspiracy charge and two charges of receiving stolen property.

She had helped Richardson with the drug distribution. "It is always distressing to have to send mothers to prison."

Nigel Allan Popenhagen, the truck driver who drove the drugs south, was sentenced to a year of home detention, and 100 hours of community work.

He was also facing charges of possessing cannabis, possessing a class A drug, and possessing a pipe for using drugs.

Roger Neil Kenney, 45, and Shaun Leonard Dennis, 28, who were involved in cutting the drugs for distribution in Christchurch, were both sentenced to a year's home detention.

Dennis also admitted his sixth charge of drink-driving and was disqualified from driving for a year.

NZPA