Judge to teen drug dealer: ‘Hug folks, you’re off to jail’

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Three Wanaka drug dealers have been imprisoned after a major police sting, with the sentencing judge inviting one to hug family and friends before going to jail.

Monty Archie Vass, 19, was invited by Judge Michael Turner to say goodbye to loved ones in Queenstown District Court yesterday. Vass’ tearful mother, father and a female friend hugged him as he left the dock and went into custody. 

The teenage drug dealer, a kitchenhand, was sentenced to two years and two months’ imprisonment, one of three Wanaka ‘street level’ drug dealers jailed. 

Daniel Miller, 30, was sentenced to two years and 10 months, while Daarian Akuhata Wira, 18, was sentenced to 16 months – he’d been given leave to apply for home detention but a suitable address couldn’t be found. 

Miller’s family also asked to hug him before he was incarcerated but were denied as he was already in custody, unlike Vass who’d been remanded on bail before Monday’s appearance. 

All three were arrested in Southern District Police’s five-month undercover Operation Viking. 

It targeted the flow of ‘party’ drugs through the lakeside resort town. 

Police intercepted and examined text messages and phone calls and set up stings using undercover officers.
In total eight men were arrested on December 1. 

Vass pleaded guilty to 22 charges, including selling two grams of Class B drug MDMA, known as ecstasy, to an undercover constable for $900 on September 13. 

Vass also admitted eight charges of offering to sell Class C drug cannabis, seven charges of offering to sell Class C drug Ritalin – used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers – and other charges of procuring Ritalin, cannabis and MDMA, conspiring to sell MDMA, and twice offering to sell MDMA, between July and October last year. 

Judge Turner told Vass: “I need to denounce your behaviour and deter you and others from dealing drugs. 

“I also need to consider the protection of the community from you because drug dealing harms.” 

Miller, a plasterer, pleaded guilty to 27 charges relating to selling Class A, B and C prohibited drugs. 

All charges stemmed from intercepted text messages, which detailed Miller offering to sell LSD on three occasions, plus MDMA and cannabis. He was also charged with procuring $150 worth of Ritalin and conspiracy to sell cannabis. 

Wira pleaded guilty to two charges of offering to sell Class C drugs, Ritalin and cannabis, and one charge of offering to sell Class B drug MDMA. 

He’d been approached by an undercover officer in a Wanaka bar on September 5 and agreed to sell a gram of MDMA for $450, although it never occurred. 

Wira also admitted resisting arrest and threatening to injure a police officer who’d been called to his house on New Year’s Eve. 

Judge Turner also cancelled a previous community work sentence, sentenced Wira for breaching it and resentenced him on a burglary charge and a disorderly behaviour charge. 

Judge Turner accepted all three were street level dealers, with Vass and Miller dealing to support their habits.