Home detention for reformed drug dealer

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013

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A former disc jockey who made $2000 a week selling illegal drugs in the New Plymouth party scene has escaped jail after changing his lifestyle.

Former Crave Club DJ Atamu Lee Manuel, now of Waitara, was one of two 25-year-old Taranaki men sentenced yesterday following their arrests as a result of Operation Puff.

In total 17 were arrested following the police undercover surveillance operation targeting the newly formed Taranaki chapter of the Rebels motorcycle gang.

Some accused are still going through the court system.

In the High Court in New Plymouth yesterday both the unemployed Manuel, who pleaded guilty to supplying class C drug ecstasy, and sickness beneficiary Ryan Adam Blackburn, who admitted conspiring to supply class C drugs, received sentences of home detention.

Justice Christopher Allan gave both men the community-based sentence to acknowledge their remorse, that they had broken links with the drug scene and to allow them to continue with their rehabilitation.

During the police electronic operation, Manuel, known as Pinky, had been in regular contact with the Rebel gang's Taranaki sergeant at arms, the summary said.

Between July 4, 2011, and August 13 police uncovered numerous communications, meetings, conversations and text messages between the two in relation to the sale and supply of ecstasy.

The text messages showed Manuel was mostly the supplier of ecstasy.

A search warrant at Manuel's home found a tick list, notebook and $3940 in cash.

He admitted to police he sold ecstasy from May 2011 and was selling 30 tablets a week at $60 each.

He would not tell police who his customers were.

Yesterday, Manuel's lawyer Russell Wilson asked for leniency for his client. He had a large growth in his brain which caused seizures and left him uncertain of his future. The drug he sold was not MDMA (ecstasy) but methadone, a class C drug.

Justice Allan sentenced Manuel to eight months home detention giving credit for his early guilty plea and ordered forfeiture of the money.

In Blackburn's case, his lawyer Paul Keegan said the charge had been lowered against his client because the mystery drug was not believed to be ecstasy but methadone.

Blackburn had frequented the former now defunct bar, the Powder Room, where he became involved in the party pill scene.

He admitted he was naive and stupid getting involved in drugs. There had been a noticeable change in him for the better more recently.

Justice Allan said alcohol and and party drugs had dominated Blackburn's life but he was no longer associated with the drug scene and was determined to support his pregnant partner and unborn child. Blackburn was given 7 months home detention and ordered to attend drug relapse prevention programmes.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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