Meth gang­ster brought down his fam­ily

Papakura Courier - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF RE­PORTER

A mem­ber of a no­to­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional gang ex­ploited mem­bers of his own fam­ily in his failed bid to smug­gle as much as $17 mil­lion worth of drugs into New Zealand.

Ban­di­dos gangman Adrian Le’Ca will spend over 15 years be­hind bars af­ter bring­ing down his sis­ter and nephew in his at­tempt to shift 15 kilo­grams of metham­phetamine and two kilo­grams of co­caine.

The drugs were seized in 2016 as part of Oper­a­tion Cos­sack, which also re­sulted in the ar­rests of Le’Ca’s sis­ter Quee­nie Anne Matthews and her son Meinata Pi­a­hana.

A third per­son, Fred Uputaua, was also ar­rested af­ter the st­ing. He was sen­tenced to 13 years and nine months in Septem­ber 2017.

De­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Al­bie Alexan­der of the Coun­ties Manukau Po­lice ma­jor crime team says Le’Ca was re­cently sen­tenced to 15 years and nine months’ im­pris­on­ment af­ter ad­mit­ting charges re­lat­ing to ‘‘the im­por­ta­tion and pos­ses­sion for sup­ply of metham­phetamine and co­caine’’.

Af­ter 15 years away from New Zealand, Le’Ca re­turned from a spell liv­ing in Thai­land to move in with his sis­ter, Matthews, and her son, Pi­a­hana. The pair were ‘‘ex­ploited’’ in Le’Ca’s smug­gling oper­a­tion, Alexan­der says.

Matthews, 59, was a for­mer bus driver and un­able to live alone. She suf­fered se­vere anx­i­ety at­tacks and de­pres­sion af­ter one of her sons com­mit­ted sui­cide.

When Le’Ca moved back to New Zealand, Matthews was also suf­fer­ing from a number of health prob­lems in­clud­ing breast cancer, di­a­betes and gout. Le’Ca ex­erted huge pres­sure on her to act as a ‘‘catcher’’.

This in­volved her re­ceiv­ing pack­ages of meth but likely hav­ing lit­tle knowl­edge of what was in them, ac­cord­ing to Jus­tice Ailsa Duffy.

Pi­a­hana, Le’Ca’s nephew, was a 29-year-old worker with a ‘‘good work ethic’’ who lived at the ad­dress with his mother where the metham­phetamine was sent.

He had worked since he was 17 and had no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions.

They were both sen­tenced to 11 months’ home de­ten­tion in Novem­ber at the High Court in Auck­land.

Alexan­der says he found the way Le’Ca had en­snared his fam­ily into his drug oper­a­tion as ‘‘par­tic­u­larly strik­ing’’.

‘‘The main of­fender and mas­ter­mind in this smug­gling oper­a­tion ex­ploited two of his own fam­ily mem­bers by in­volv­ing them in his crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,’’

‘‘The se­ri­ous­ness of this of­fend­ing is at the high­est level and are re­flected in the penal­ties passed down from the courts.’’

Oper­a­tion Cos­sack was a joint, seven-month oper­a­tion be­tween Coun­ties Manukau Po­lice and New Zealand Cus­toms.

The st­ing also re­sulted in the ar­rest of three other men aged 54, 31 and 28 at the time.

SUP­PLIED

Adrian Le’Ca tried to shift more than 15 kilo­grams of metham­phetamine but was nabbed in a joint oper­a­tion be­tween Po­lice and Cus­toms.

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