Five children under seven and another about to be born will spend the next year or two without their drug-dealing mothers, who have been jailed for selling cannabis from a Housing New Zealand home.
Three solo mothers, one of whom is known locally as "the queen of green" and is seven months pregnant, have been sent to prison for a cannabis operation that netted them up to $340,000 in four months last year for selling "tinnies" from a state house in Napier.
A "tinny" is a small tinfoil-wrapped package containing between 0.6 and 1.2 grams of cannabis, which sells for about $20.
Business was so good during the four months that they sold a $20 tinny every minute and the number of customers so great that their cars would clog up the street.
The main offender, Chareese Gray, 26, is the mother of two children under 7, with a third due next month. She would supply cannabis to Toni Stewart, a 19-year-old with a 5-month-old baby, who sold it in tinnies from a Housing NZ house in Lister Place, Maraenui. Gray's brother, Derek, 27, also sold tinnies from the property.
According to a police summary of facts, Chareese Gray organised a roster of "employees" to run the shop, with Stewart and others sending text messages to her as supplies ran down.
Police became aware of the operation and ran surveillance between April and August last year.
At times officers observed cars parked up to four abreast in the small cul-de-sac, with so many customers that, on some days, vehicles could not enter or leave.
When police raided the property and arrested Stewart on August 17, she said the shop would sell 150 tinnies on a busy day and usually about 1000 a week.
From Gray's text messages, police could tell the house got so busy at times that it was selling one tinnie a minute. During the four months that police watched the house, they calculated that the group could have sold about $340,000 worth of tinnies.
Separate to the tinny house, Chareese Gray sold a further $27,000 worth of cannabis during the same period.
The three were charged last August and granted bail. Three months later, Stewart was caught with Chareese's sister, Soraya, in possession of cannabis at a Housing NZ house in Percy Spiller Ave.
Soraya, 21, has children aged three and five. Police found 79 tinnies on the property and Stewart had $600 in cash.
Stewart and Soraya Gray were found guilty of possessing cannabis for the purpose of sale at trial last month.
The four offenders, who are all beneficiaries, appeared for sentencing before Judge Tony Adeane in Napier District Court last week.
Chareese Gray pleaded guilty to charges of selling cannabis and possessing it for sale, and was sentenced to three years and 10 months' prison. Derek Gray pleaded guilty to three charges of selling cannabis and was jailed for two years and four months.
Stewart pleaded guilty to two charges of selling cannabis and one of possessing it for sale and was jailed for three years and one month.
Soraya Gray was jailed for two years and six months.
A Housing NZ spokesman said that none of the offenders had been tenants of the Lister Place or Percy Spiller Ave houses.
The Lister Place house had been vacant since August 26.
The Percy Spiller Ave house had been vacant since April.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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