Police bugs track 110,000 gang messages

By Tony Stickley

Police intercepted more than 110,000 phone and text messages between the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gang members during a major three-month drug operation in South Auckland and the Waikato.

The astonishing extent of police monitoring of gang communications was outlined in the High Court at Auckland where patched Killer Beez gangster, 22-year-old father of one, Eric Paki-Edwards appeared for sentence.

He had admitted one representative charge of supplying methamphetamine and was sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment.

Paki-Edwards was one of around 30 people arrested following a police bugging operation, code-named Leo, that started in late 2007

Justice Rodney Hansen said the operation involved both phone and text monitoring.

"Over a three-month period, over 110,000 communications from the phones of members or associates of the Tribesmen and Killer Beez were intercepted.

"Thousands of these communications were found to relate to criminal activities, including drug dealing."

The judge said that the prosecution claimed that of the 11,440 communications involving Paki-Edwards, 1235 were drug-related.

Following a disputed facts hearing, Justice Hansen said he concluded that Paki-Edwards had been involved in supplying 20-30 grams of methamphetamine.

The Crown had maintained it was at least twice that amount.

Defence counsel Maria Pecotic said that there had been around 30 transactions, while Crown prosecutor Bruce Northwood, said it was considerably more.

Justice Hansen said he did not need to arrive at a final figure for sentencing purposes.

He said Paki-Edwards was at the lowest level of the distribution chain "but regularly supplied small quantities of methamphetamine to a small but select group of customers."

Paki-Edwards, who spent his childhood either with his alcoholic father or methamphetamine addict mother, told probation officers he sold drugs to provide for his young family.

Having seen his parents selling drugs for a living he "regarded it as acceptable," the judge said.

While on bail, Paki-Edwards had obtained a forklift operator's qualification and had received references which the judge said were "impressive indeed".

"It is obvious to me that you are a man of considerable ability and potential," he told Paki-Edwards.

The judge said Paki-Edwards was motivated to change.

Taking a starting point of four years, the judge gave a one-third discount to reflect Paki-Edwards' guilty plea and as an incentive to continue his efforts to turn his life around.

Outstanding fines were cancelled so that he could come out of prison with a clean slate.

A number of others have already been sentenced.

- NZPA

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