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'Puff' snuffs out new Rebels drugs gang

 

LYN HUMPHREYS
 
 
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2013
 

A newly-formed Taranaki Rebels drug-dealing gang has crashed and burned following an undercover police bust codenamed Operation Puff.

The failure of the new gang was revealed in a police court summary after one of the members, among 17 men and women arrested in September 2011, pleaded guilty in the High Court at New Plymouth this week to drug dealing.

Jade Rodney James, 23, unemployed, pleaded guilty to four charges.

He was convicted of participating in an organised criminal group, conspiring to supply the class A controlled drug methamphetamine, conspiring to supply ecstasy and conspiring to supply cannabis.

He was remanded to June 27 on electronic bail for sentence.

Others alleged to be further up the hierarchy of the Taranaki gang have a trial set down in the High Court in New Plymouth early next month.

Further associates have already been dealt with through the courts.

A lengthy electronic surveillance operation, which was carried out over several months in 2011, targeted the newly-formed Taranaki chapter of the Rebels gang and their associates.

The operation was set up following police intelligence that the Australian-based gang, involved in the manufacture and distribution of class A drug methamphetamine (P), was spreading throughout New Zealand.

Days after the arrests, the Taranaki Rebels chapter was to hold a national Rebels New Zealand meeting at their clubrooms at the Barrett St hospital complex.

Every Rebels member in New Zealand was to attend, the summary said.

However, the Taranaki arrests, most of which occurred after police involved in the operation swooped on September 1, meant the Taranaki Rebels were unable to perform their role as hosts as they were behind bars.

"Police did, however, detect 14 patched Rebels from the Lower North Is[land] and Canterbury entering Taranaki on 2 September 2011," the summary said.

"They left the province early on 3 September 2011."

In Australia, the Rebels is the largest outlaw motorcycle gang, with 72 chapters.

Police now believe the Rebels have chapters across New Zealand and have the potential to become this country's biggest gang.

Because methamphetamine was "a particularly addictive and destructive drug", and was expensive to purchase, it was routinely manufactured, supplied and distributed by gangs, the summary said.

Holding the rank of soldier and under the control of the Taranaki sergeant at arms, James had the job of fetching and carrying for gang members, including selling drugs, the summary said.

The surveillance operation discovered large amounts of meth and class C ecstasy were sought by the accused from associates and contacts.

They were then to distribute the drugs to purchasers throughout the New Plymouth area.

James was identified through recorded conversations, text communication and surveillance.

- Fairfax NZ News

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