The head of the Rebels gang "fried the town" where he lived because of wide-scale drug dealing but his lawyer has begged a Rotorua judge to "show kindness" and recognise he had a hard childhood.
James Patrick Duff, 51, was sentenced in the Rotorua District Court yesterday to 15 years' jail by Judge Greg Hollister-Jones.
Duff previously pleaded guilty to 31 charges relating to dealing methamphetamine, LSD, ecstasy and cannabis as well as charges of participating in an organised group, firearms charges and offences where he tried to interfere with justice.
The father of three was considered the kingpin of the syndicate and was starting to spread his drug dealing networks throughout the North Island when police busted his operation in October 2019.
His arrest came after a six-month police investigation codenamed Operation Ulysses.
Crown prosecutor Anna McConachy said Duff was motivated by money and was clearly aware of the impact he was having on where he lived.
"He is reported as saying 'he fried the town'," McConachy said.
"This is not street-level dealing trying to fund his habit ... This didn't come about because of his addiction."
The Rotorua Daily Post cannot specify where Duff lived because of legal reasons.
But Duff's lawyer, Scott Mccolgan, said his client was "brutally honest" when it came to his reasons for his offending.
He told a report writer he was poor, sick of struggling and just wanted to live a better life - one that was better than what he had as a child.
Duff was one of nine children born to a mother who was only 15. He moved around a lot and experienced hardship and poverty. His criminal offending began aged 7 stealing food to feed his siblings. He was put in a borstal at the age of 11.
Mccolgan said Duff said he wanted to prove to his family he "wasn't an effing loser ... I wanted to prove I was a winner".
Mccolgan said it was about "envy and anger", not about greed.
"As a society we have to start recognising this ... You (Judge Hollister-Jones) sit in that chair as the face of authority. He has never been shown lenience by authority before. Recognise that we as a society have played a role in where he is today ... Let's do something about this."
Mccolgan urged the judge to not just treat him like an offender or a criminal.
"Show some kindness in my submission and grant this man some recognition of the causes of where he is today ... Let's do something about this."
Mccolgan asked his client be given a big discount for his guilty plea as he would have pleaded guilty almost immediately but the delay was his lawyer's fault as he needed time to be sure he was pleading guilty to the correct charges.
Judge Hollister-Jones said Duff's dealing model saw him get large amounts of methamphetamine from his Rebels networks before distributing it among other gang members to sell at retail level.
Other criminal activity was involved in Duff's offending.
He was also involved in hatching plans to "seriously interfere with justice".
Duff had six previous convictions for drug dealing, the last of which was in 2009 and Judge Hollister-Jones noted he had remained offence-free for 11 years.
In sentencing Duff, Judge Hollister Jones said he gave discounts for mitigating factors of 30 per cent, giving an end sentence of 15 years and three months which he rounded down to 15 years.
Duff's right-hand man and gang vice president Mark Glassie, who also worked as a youth worker for an Oranga Tamariki-linked agency, was jailed for seven years in February after pleading guilty to 13 charges.
The police operation
Police brought Operation Ulysses to an end with the arrest of 15 people.
Detective Senior Sergeant John Wilson said the court's sentence sent a clear message that if you choose to be in the business of supplying illicit drugs, police will target you and hold you to account.
"We won't tolerate offenders benefiting financially at the expense of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities."
He described the arrests as making a big impact on those in the drugs trade.
The disruption of this syndicate has had a significant impact on the availability of illicit drugs, Wilson said.
As of the operation, police dismantled a clandestine methamphetamine lab, found $40,000 in cash, methamphetamine with a street value of $360,000, 4.3kg of dried cannabis and a further 500 cannabis plants.
Criminal proceeds recovery action is currently under way in respect of two properties and a number of vehicles and motorcycles.
"We continue to encourage our communities to provide us with information that will help us target those supplying drugs in their neighbourhoods."
Information can be provided by contacting 105 or anonymously via Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.