Jail for drug-importing student
A Palmerston North business student's take on self-employment will see him spending several semesters behind bars after he was caught importing thousands of dollars worth of ecstasy and cocaine.
Benjamen Patrick Belmont was a 19-year-old Massey University student when he went from importing small amounts of drugs for himself, to running a dealing operation, which saw thousands of ecstasy pills imported in New Zealand using encrypted websites and Bitcoins.
Belmont, now 20, was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court today to four years and 10 months imprisonment on 11 charges relating to his offending.
The court was told how, between November 2012 and April last year, Belmont imported cocaine, ecstasy and LSD into the country.
He would order drugs online through encrypted transactions and the packages, usually from the Netherlands or England, would be sent through the post.
Customs staff intercepted some of these packages at the border.
Among the haul was 993 micrograms of crystal MDMA, five tabs of LSD and 6.1 grams of cocaine.
But the biggest catch was 1266 ecstasy pills, estimated to have a street value of $50,640.
Police raided Belmont's Ada St flat and a Broadway Ave property, where more drugs were found, along with a 12-gauge Remington shotgun, 62 rounds of ammunition for the gun and $80,000 cash.
Analysis of Belmont's bank records showed he would deposit thousands of dollars in cash into an account, which he would then transfer into his Bitcoin account.
Between November and April, he made 80 deposits totalling $123,000, and $113,000 of transfers to the Bitcoin account.
While on bail for his offending he was caught using the internet.
Police searched his house and found another $39,000 in his room. He told police it was from drug debts he had collected since his arrest.
A pre-sentence report said Belmont had been the victim of a violent assault, before his offending began, and his family had said his behaviour had changed after the attack.
Belmont told the report writer he had got into drugs by using marijuana, before moving onto consuming ecstasy and LSD.
From there, he began importing the drugs for personal use, selling extras to his friends.
That soon led to more people asking him for the drugs, and a business opportunity soon opened up.
Judge Les Atkins said the supply of ecstasy pills was the most serious offending, despite carrying a lower maximum punishment than the importation of cocaine.
That was because of the amount of drugs dealt, he said.
Outside of court, Customs investigations manager Maurice O'Brien said the result sent a strong warning to drug dealers.
"This young man believed he could import drugs in several small shipments and hide the profits without getting caught, but this type of offending does not go unnoticed."