A Napier electrician who turned to drug-dealing and became involved in a major network dealing in millions of dollars of methamphetamine was yesterday sentenced to eight years' jail.

The sentence was imposed on 50-year-old Keith Lawson who pleaded guilty to charges of offering to supply methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine for supply, and unlawful possession of a high-powered air rifle.

It's believed almost a kilogram of methamphetamine was moved from Auckland to Hawke's Bay by, or at the direction of, Lawson, referred to by associates as "the big man", "sir" and "the boss".

Police said surveillance indicated he was involved in at least 500 "transactions".


His sentence was imposed after 1 days of a disputed facts hearing, in which Lawson, through defence counsel Russell Fairbrother QC, argued the amount involved in purchases in Auckland for distribution in the Bay was much less than the 1.3kg that had been assessed by police and the Crown.

Judge Jonathan Down accepted some of the debate, and lowered the figure by about 400g.

Also sentenced yesterday was Napier woman Raewyn Marie Langridge, 39, who pleaded guilty to similar drugs charges but involving minimal amounts and less involved circumstances. Her term is 3 years and 6 months.

Summaries presented by the Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker, said that as part of the investigation in Hawke's Bay, police obtained search warrants enabling them to view cellphone records of suspects and conduct surveillance by intercepting mobile and landline phone calls.

Lawson was said to have made or organised at least 18 trips to Auckland for the purpose of buying methamphetamine, amounting to at least 40 ounces (1.13kg).

The investigation, Operation Spark, led to seven arrests in Hawke's Bay in August last year.

Another man awaits trial, as do others in the Auckland area who are alleged to be higher up the chain of command.