Smuggler cop 'victim of own generous personality'

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 12:44 17/12/2013
SENTENCED: Lotovale Ulufafo Solofa Perese, outside court.
SENTENCED: Lotovale Ulufafo Solofa Perese, outside court.

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An Auckland police officer who smuggled contraband to prisoners was a victim of his own generous personality who just wanted to keep things "calm" in the cells, a court has heard.

Lotovale Ulufafo Solofa Perese, 42, of Henderson, was sentenced today to 150 hours' community work for providing goods to offenders while working as a prison escort officer at Waitakere District Court.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to 18 charges of supplying contraband including cannabis, USB sticks, tobacco and lighters to prisoners while they were waiting in the cells on 77 occasions over a 6 month period.

Unusually, Perese gained nothing from the offending, which began as a way to keep the peace in the cells and escalated out of his control, his lawyer Richard Earwarker told Waitakere District Court today.

Earwarker said his client had no idea why he behaved as he did.

"It was just one of those stupid decisions that I made," Perese's statement to police said. "I just wanted to keep things calm in the cells. I didn't think."

Perese's family, friends and co-workers were baffled by his actions, Earwarker said. He was extremely well thought of in the community, and was a former chairman on his childrens' school board of trustees.

Earwarker said his client had undergone intensive counselling to understand his offending. He had resigned from his job at the police.

Perese originally faced 35 charges but they were amended, with 17 withdrawn by police. Some of the remaining charges are representative. They relate to contraband smuggled into Mt Eden Prison and Auckland Women's Regional Corrections Facility.

Judge David Wilson said it was "inexplicable" that Perese had fallen into the offending given his reputation and previous character. He said he had never seen such a showing of support in court or via references as in the case.

Wilson described how Perese began with wanting to make the time in the cells less stressful for prisoners, by providing cigarettes despite a ban on smoking. It then grew into something much bigger.

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