4 Nov 2016

No jail for Hutt Valley tobacco thieves

8:02 pm on 4 November 2016

Three men involved in the theft of more than $100,000 worth of tobacco from a Hutt Valley factory have avoided jail.

Left to right: Mika Lemoe, Michael Ellis and Sui Mano

Left to right: Mika Lemoe, Michael Ellis and Sui Mano Photo: RNZ

Michael Ellis, Mika Lemoe and Sui Mano were all sentenced this afternoon in the Hutt Valley District Court on theft charges.

Ellis worked as a security guard at the Imperial Tobacco Company and prepared the way for his co-workers to remove the tobacco from the factory without being seen.

The estimated value of the tobacco stolen was about $120,000, but Ellis' lawyer, James Elliott, said about $76,000 of that would have been excise duty.

Judge Craig Thompson said the breach of trust involved was a serious aggravating feature.

"You were there to prevent this sort of thing happening but you elected not to. Your personal gain may have been small but you were an essential part of the overall scheme and you allowed it to happen."

Elliott was ordered to serve four months' community detention, carry out 200 hours' community work and pay reparation of $10,000.

Mika Lemoe had worked at Imperial Tobacco for three years and his lawyer, Melanie Baker, said he could see no further than his family's needs and did not think of the consequences.

"He is now in an embarrassing position for himself and family. He has been left without work, with a number of children to feed."

Judge Thompson said Lemoe let his greed get away with his better judgment, and that $30,000 of tobacco was found at his house when it was searched.

Lemoe was sentenced to serve four months' community detention, 100 hours' community work and pay $8000 in reparations.

Sui Mano was also sentenced to four months' community detention.

His lawyer, Emily Bruce, said he was still very young and had assisted the police inquiry.

"His role was fairly limited. That is not to downgrade it but simply to note it was limited to carrying bags."

However, Judge Thompson said, while Mano did not receive any tobacco, he was to receive $10,000 as his share of profit from the theft.

He ordered Mano to do 150 hours' community work and to pay $10,000 reparation.

Others accused of being involved in the tobacco theft are still making their way through the courts.