Red-zone worker stole from city stores

A Tauranga contractor has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $36,000 worth of items from earthquake-hit businesses in Christchurch's central-city red zone.

Plasterer Victor Tupotahi Jackson, 38, was convicted of three counts of theft during a Christchurch District Court session today.

Jackson had been working as a sub-contractor on quake repairs at Ballantynes and the Colombus and Ware menswear shop in Colombo St between October last year and January this year.

Police said Jackson stole $36,238 worth of items from the two stores and the offices of three clothing retail agencies while working in the buildings.

He then couriered the items to Tauranga and held a "monster garage sale" at a house in Mt Maunganui on January 22.

Jackson reportedly placed an advertisement in a Tauranga newspaper for a ''Monster garage sale - clothes, boots, shoes, jackets, all new jewellery and cosmetics''.

On January 25, Christchurch police found a bag belonging to Jackson that was due to be sent to Tauranga.

The bag was found to contain more than $9000 worth of RM Williams products.

Police searched two Tauranga properties on January 31, finding bags containing new clothing and accessories, jewellery, electrical goods and cosmetics.

The items were all stolen in Christchurch.

Most of the stolen items were recovered, but police were still looking for $18,770 worth of footwear stolen from Ballantynes.

Judge Brian Callaghan remanded Jackson in custody for sentencing on May 16.

The judge said prison was "inevitable", given the amount of items stolen and the fact Jackson had been trusted to work in the cordoned red zone.

"In my assessment here, given the nature of the offending and the ... trust that was given to the offender, any other sentence other than imprisonment would be unlikely."

Last month fellow Tauranga plasterer Ross Larkin was also charged with theft of goods from Christchurch red zone stores.

Detective Sergeant Dorothy McPhail said Larkin alleged involvement was to a lesser degree.

The Press