Celebrity cocaine sting: Accused appear in court

From left to right - Christopher Lay, Samuel James Montgomery and Benjamin Alexander McLellan have appeared in court. Photo / Greg Bowker
From left to right - Christopher Lay, Samuel James Montgomery and Benjamin Alexander McLellan have appeared in court. Photo / Greg Bowker

Seven alleged members of a cocaine ring selling to high-flying clients have appeared in court in Auckland.

Three of them can be named.

Christopher Lay, a 41-year-old fashion designer, is facing 15 charges of supplying cocaine, two of possessing cocaine for supply and one of offering to supply cocaine.

Benjamin Alexander McLellan, a 35-year-old manager, is facing five charges of supplying cocaine and one of possessing methamphetamine.

Samuel James Montgomery, a 30-year-old clothing distributor, is facing one charge of possessing cocaine, one of offering to supply GHB and one of supplying cocaine.

All three pleaded not guilty to all charges and elected trial by jury during yesterday's appearance at Auckland District Court.

The men were arrested as part of Operation Ceviche, which led to the seizure of 760g of cocaine, worth $300,000, and $81,000 cash in late August.

The covert investigation by the National Organised Crime Group initially focused on Anthony 'Ants' Nansen, a senior patched member of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.

Police allege they uncovered the cocaine ring after monitoring Nansen. They alleged they were led to two others running their own "mini drug supply networks", Lay and a hairdresser.

Among their alleged clientele are a stockbroker, an executive, the boss of a large company, a recruitment agency owner, the husband of a TV actress and a personal trainer. The alleged customers are named in court documents but have not been charged.

Nansen has been charged with supplying methamphetamine and possessing cocaine for supply.

He did not appear in court yesterday.

The hairdresser did appear. He pleaded not guilty to 17 charges and elected trial by jury next year. He has name suppression, which will be addressed at a hearing later this month.

Three other accused appeared this morning, a DJ, a film production assistant and a forklift operator. All pleaded not guilty and opted to have their cases heard by a jury. Their name suppression orders will continue until the hearing later this month.
All seven of the defendants who appeared today were remanded on bail until their next appearance in December.

The three phases of Operation Ceviche, which lasted several months, ended with police raids in late August and a single seizure of 750g of cocaine and $81,000 cash.

In a press release at the time, Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid said the cocaine was a significant find. In total, the police seized almost 760g of cocaine with a street value of more than $300,000.

"Cocaine is usually picked up in much smaller amounts, so [the] find is indicative of people who have been heavily involved in persistent, premeditated, career drug dealing."

- NZ Herald

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