Rimutaka prisoner ran drug importing ring from cell
An Egyptian national, already in jail for importing cocaine, ran a methamphetamine importing ring from Rimutaka Prison.
Mohamed Atta, 40, was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail for importing cocaine in 2010, but began another importing ring in 2014, bringing in 1758 grams of methamphetamine using contacts in Thailand during a three-month period.
Atta used a number of cellphones to steer the drug ring, including one provided to him by a former Corrections officer.
Justice David Collins in the High Court at Wellington on Tuesday called him the mastermind of a group that was picked up during a joint police, Customs and Corrections operation called Gandalf.
"You were at the centre of it in New Zealand," the judge said.
He jailed Atta for 13 years and two months and ordered him to serve a minimum of six years and seven months.
The judge said Atta had been undeterred by the fact he was already serving a sentence.
Atta was paid $5000 on each importation and used a woman on the outside to pay others, laundering the money through family accounts and depositing some into other prisoners' accounts, the judge said.
He pleaded guilty to seven charges of importing methamphetamine and one of conspiracy to supply the drug.
The woman, 61, a nurse, was also sentenced on Tuesday to 10 and a half months' home detention on a charge of money laundering. Her name was suppressed.
The judge said her efforts gave Atta status and allowed him influence over other prisoners to further the drug enterprise.
Duane Paul Te Hau, 27, whom the judge called another key player, arranged for the drug to be sent to his address and used Atta's contact to arrange a second importation after the first one had been intercepted.
The street value of the importation was between $60,000 and $100,000.
Te Hau, who pleaded guilty to two charges of importing methamphetamine and one of supply, was jailed for five years and 10 months.
Eleven people have so far been sentenced in relation to the ring, with three more facing sentencing.
Rimutaka prison director Chris Burns welcomed the sentence and said prisoners would constantly try to find ways to introduce contraband into prisons.
"Our intelligence staff are constantly working to identify and mitigate risk areas in each prison's physical environment, and to stay informed about new methods of concealment.
"In this instance, our efforts were undermined by the collusion of [a] Corrections officer."
The former officer resigned in April 2015 and was sentenced on corruption charges in March.
Cellphones are banned from New Zealand prisons, and Burns said jamming technology was progressively implemented to investigate prisoners' use of them.
"The telecommunications industry is rapidly evolving ... We regularly engage with industry partners to ensure that we keep abreast of these changes."