Police home in on speed merchants
Rival motorcycle gangs are working together to cook and supply millions of dollars worth of methamphetamine across the country.
Police believe they have uncovered a partnership between the Red Devils and the Head Hunters during a major organised crime investigation dubbed Operation Genoa. Investigators have also seized a custom-made mobile meth lab near Auckland, which they believe was being used by rival gangs to manufacture and supply drugs.
"Our intelligence indicates they [gangs] are sharing cooks, they are sharing muscle, they are sharing chemicals and they are sharing portable clan [clandestine] labs," Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid said.
Drugs, cash and assets worth more than $12 million have been seized as a result of the nine-month inquiry, which spanned Auckland, Waikato and the top of the South Island.
That figure includes a $400,000 haul of methamphetamine and chemicals used to make the drug in Nelson, which is a record find for the region.
Eight people, including senior patched Head Hunters members Michael Joseph Cavanagh, 40, and David Gerrard O'Carroll, 49, were arrested a fortnight ago and face a raft of charges.
Now police say they are looking for a former member of the Red Devils, Terry Jones, 44, from Richmond, in connection with their investigation.
Jones was arrested as part of Operation Explorer in 2011.
He is on bail and due to reappear in court in July in relation to 28 charges, including the supply and sale of methamphetamine.
Investigators believe he still has connections to the Red Devils.
Properties connected to the gang, which recently become a "hang around" chapter of the Hells Angels, have also been searched as part of the investigation.
After the initial termination phase of the police operation investigators found 100g of methamphetamine and 2.4kg ephedrine in a Nelson storage unit linked to one of the Auckland-based suspects, Schmid said.
They also found a large amount of cash, a shotgun and equipment used to manufacture drugs. "We believe we have shut down a key distribution hub in Nelson."
The discovery "reinforces our belief that gangs are working together to manufacture and supply methamphetamine" across the country, he said.
Investigators believed the drug ring was using several addresses and storage units nationally to produce, store and distribute methamphetamine and ephedrine.
Police had recovered methamphetamine and precursor drugs and chemicals with a combined street value of up to $4 million and seized more than $5.8 million in assets including a Ferrari, Porsche, and Maserati, a 30-foot launch, five properties, gold bullion, silver ingots, firearms and more than $2.4m in cash.
Police alleged self-employed midwife, Lisa Marie Ryan, 51 from Nelson, was laundering money for the drug ring.
Many of the properties and expensive cars seized by police were in her name. She was arrested in Auckland and gave her address as a hotel room.
The Head Hunters formed in Auckland in 1967. The infamous gang has only recently had a presence in the South Island. Its membership has swelled to 150 patched members with at least 10 based in Christchurch and five in Nelson.
The Red Devils formed in Nelson in 2009. Police made several attempts to prevent the gang setting up, which included the arrest of 21 gang members and associates during Operation Explorer.
Charges against the group were later dropped because of a flawed undercover operation. However, a Court of Appeal decision last October cleared the way for the charges to proceed. Lawyers have indicated they will take the case to the Supreme Court.
Anyone with information about Jones' whereabouts should call police on 0211916094. He is described as caucasian and is is 175 cm tall. He has a distinctive birthmark on his left cheek and is believed to be somewhere in the Nelson region.
- The Press
Should fluoride be added to the water supply in Nelson and Marlborough?Related story: (See story)
View births, marriages and celebrations from around the region
View obituaries from around the region