Head of $800,000 crime ring jailed

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 12:29 15/02/2013

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The head of an $800,000 burglary ring in Christchurch has been jailed for 10 years.

Harold William McDonald, 45, was busted by police during Operation Wigram.

Methamphetamine with a street value of about $250,000 was found in his house and car during a police raid.

The Christchurch District Court was told that methamphetamine was found hidden in a safe beneath his house, with access through a trapdoor in the wardrobe in a child's bedroom.

McDonald appeared for sentence today after pleading guilty to charges of taking part in an organised criminal group, unlawful possession of a shotgun, possession of the class A drug methamphetamine for supply and supplying the drug.

The drugs charges carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Police allege the burglary ring carried out 40 large-scale raids on commercial premises in Hornby, Wigram and Sockburn, and took goods worth $800,000.

Defence counsel Ian Tucker, from Auckland, told Judge Paul Kellar: "It is not alleged he was involved in any of the burglaries, but rather as the principal 'Fagin' of the group."

Crown prosecutor Kathy Bell said the police had seized assets worth between $150,000 and $300,000, and if a forfeiture order was made later, this money would go back to the victims.

Judge Kellar made a reparation order totalling $300,000 against McDonald, who has admitted a long-standing P addiction and a gambling problem.

McDonald's family were in court to see the sentencing.

Tucker said McDonald acknowledged that methamphetamine had been the foundation of his offending. His arrest brought his drug consumption to an end.

"He says he is enjoying feeling healthier after the detoxification that occurred from his very heavy methamphetamine consumption prior to his arrest," he said.

Judge Kellar said it was accepted that McDonald was the leader of the group dealing in methamphetamine and commercial burglaries from January to July 2012.

Neither he nor another person involved were employed or on a benefit but obtained $340,000 over that period by criminal activity.

Methamphetamine was bought from the North Island. McDonald and an associate transported some of it south on expensive motorcycles they bought on the trip.

The police raid found three safes, with one containing methamphetamine and the other two containing $42,000 in cash. McDonald had the key to the safe containing drugs on his keyring.

McDonald admitted he had a longstanding habit of resorting to crime to meet his needs, and the current offending arose from greed. His low-level P habit had escalated to the point where it was out of control.

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He had 49 previous convictions for property and dishonesty offending, two for drugs, five for weapons offences, and several more for violence or driving offences.

Judge Kellar said: "You said you tried to protect the children in the household from exposure to the drug-crime culture, but you don't seem to have given a moment's thought to the untold harm and suffering that methamphetamine causes in society."

There was a need to deter methamphetamine offending because it was a highly pernicious drug.

He imposed a five-year minimum non-parole term as part of the 10-year sentence.

Others charged with being members of the criminal conspiracy are still to stand trial in the Christchurch District Court.

- The Press

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