Comancheros: Gang secretary jailed for part in money laundering, drug operation
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Jarome Raymond Fonua previously admitted participating in an organised criminal group for the purpose of drug dealing, money laundering, and possession of 5.9 grams of methamphetamine.
On Tuesday, at the High Court in Auckland, Justice Graham Lang said Fonua was an “important player in the group” and sentenced him to four years and six months in prison.
Fonua was arrested, along with 18 others, following a series of raids across Auckland in April 2019, which saw more than $3.7 million in assets seized along with luxury cars, motorcycles, luxury luggage and jewellery.
Fonua’s lawyer, Ron Mansfield, said his client’s direct involvement in the case was limited.
The money laundering charge relates to the purchase of a Range Rover, worth about $150,000.
The defence lawyer said his client would be deported back to Australia once he completes his sentence and his partner will have to uplift their life to be with him.
However, Crown prosecutor Emma Smith said Fonua’s involvement went from at least July 2018 through until April 2019 when he was found with $12,000 cash, a cash counting machine and methamphetamine.
The court heard Fonua arrived in New Zealand in November 2017. Unlike other members of the Comancheros, he was born in Australian and is a citizen there.
Within a relatively short period of arriving in New Zealand with his Kiwi-born partner, he became a member of the gang.
In August 2018, $239,000 was deposited into Fonua’s account.
“That cash must have come from criminal activity ... none of the persons charged held down steady jobs,” Justice Lang said.
Fonua must have known the gang was receiving funds through drug dealing activity given his “trusted position” in the gang, the court heard.
“You were clearly trusted with cash ... you provided $60,000 towards Mr Naufahu's property.”
However, Justice Lang accepted Fonua was not the orchestrator of the offending.
On May 31, 2019, following Fonua’s April arrest, police found electronic scales with a trace of methamphetamine, 5.9 grams of the drug and an encrypted communication device.
In October this year, gang president Pasilika Naufahu was found guilty of money laundering and conspiring to supply pseudoephedrine, a precursor to methamphetamine.
Connor Michael Tamati Clausen was also found guilty of conspiring to supply pseudoephedrine and a woman with name suppression was found guilty of money laundering.
The trio will be sentenced later this year for their offending.
A media personality, who has name suppression, and accountant Wiwini Himi Hakaraia were originally on trial, however, they had their charges formally discharged partway through the trial.
Earlier this year, lawyer Andrew Simpson and the gang’s vice-president Tyson Daniels were jailed after they admitted their part in the operation.