Timaru man jailed for role in meth operation
A man from Timaru who claimed to be just a ‘middleman’ in a meth ring has been jailed for 21 months.
On Friday, Rikki Te Rongopatahi Austin, 41, appeared via audiovisual link before Judge Joanna Maze for sentencing in Timaru District Court.
In December, Austin pleaded guilty to a joint charge of manufacturing methamphetamine with two others, attempting to pervert the course of justice, offering to supply methamphetamine (representative charge), offering to supply methamphetamine with another person, supplying methamphetamine, supplying methamphetamine with another person, possession of cannabis utensils and methamphetamine, and possession of a cannabis plant.
On Friday, defense attorney Tim Jackson told Judge Maze that there should be a significant remission for cultural factors, particularly that of deprivation in his upbringing and a series of “catastrophic events”.
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“He was exposed to poverty, alcohol and drug abuse and violence in the home,” Jackson told Judge Maze.
“The Court should recognize that the defendant’s offense was related to drug addiction.”
Jackson said he tried to access rehabilitation services for Austin, but at this point nothing had been approved.
Operation Gipsy, which targeted the manufacture, supply and sale of methamphetamine in South Canterbury, ended in late June with the arrest of 13 people – Austin was one of them.
According to the police summary, during communications interceptions from June 4, 2021 to June 30, 2021, “police identified regular communications to and from the targets’ cell phones with a wide range of individuals who confirmed their involvement in the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in South Canterbury”.
On May 28, 2021, Austin, along with Shanla Aitken and Joshua Orchard, began talking to each other via text and phone about making meth.
Due to a delay in production, animosity began to build towards Orchard.
On May 31, 2021, Austin messaged Orchard and said he was taking too long to make the meth, and that he would pick it up and make it himself.
On June 4, Austin and Aitken texted each other “discussing that the meth needed to be washed off because it had been damaged by the fire.”
Aitken informed him that the meth tasted strongly like ephedrine, which is used to make meth and is a byproduct of poor meth production.
On June 7, 2021, she sent another text message to Austin “to arrange to show him the production.”
The couple discussed the meth remedy, and Austin called Orchard.
“They had a heated discussion regarding meth being damaged in a fire,” the summary reads.
“All three defendants had a clear goal of obtaining material benefits from the manufacture of methamphetamine and each of the defendants had roles that furthered the interests of their group.”
On June 26, Austin provided an associate with two grams of methamphetamine.
Between May 17, 2021 and June 27, 2021, Austin offered to supply Aitken with crystal meth five times.
Along with Aitken, Austin provided an unknown amount of methamphetamine to a contact on June 5, 2021.
On June 30, 2021, police executed a search warrant at the motel, in Timaru, where Austin resided. A search of the address found a meth pipe under the bed, as well as a cannabis bong and a gram of cannabis in the kitchen.
“By way of explanation, the defendant stated that the medications and utensils located in the motel room were his,” the summary reads.
“Defendant has stated that he supplies methamphetamine and describes himself as ‘the middle man’ and can obtain small amounts of meth in the city to supply to support his own addiction. Regarding the manufacture of methamphetamine, the accused denied any involvement.
Jackson said Austin expressed serious remorse and noted that the main victims were his family, especially his son.
“He openly admitted that he was a drug addict and wanted treatment. Mr. Austin has a good idea of that,” Jackson told Judge Maze.
“He’s really ready to start again.”
When sentencing Austin, Judge Maze said the likelihood of him reoffending was “medium to high” unless he received therapeutic intervention.
“He recognizes that his methamphetamine addiction could subject him to serious relapses,” Judge Maze said.
“His remarks during the presentation of the sentence showed a glimpse of full responsibility.”
Judge Maze said Austin’s cultural report “details the traumatic damage at an impressionable stage of his development.”
“It led directly to a search for gang involvement,” Judge Maze said.
“It led to a culture of normalization of drug and alcohol abuse. It turned to groups with common past adversity.
Judge Maze noted that Austin had had a period of enforced abstinence while in custody.
Sentencing Austin to 21 months in prison, Judge Maze allowed the request for house arrest.