A Dunedin gang member primarily responsible for the
misappropriation of $20,000 of government funds for the gang to
buy cannabis has been jailed for four years.
Korrey Teeati Cook (36) was one of 10 men arrested earlier
this year after an electronic surveillance operation into the
drug-dealing activities of the Mongrel Mob Notorious gang in
the wider Dunedin area.
During the investigation, intercepted conversations between
Cook and others revealed $20,000 from the Government's Whanau
Ora programme had been misappropriated from the We Against
Violence Trust and used to buy cannabis intended for sale.
Cook eventually admitted indictable charges of dishonestly
converting $20,000 of trust money, conspiring with others to
sell cannabis and two charges of possessing cannabis for
In the Dunedin District Court yesterday, Judge Michael
Crosbie said Cook had begun the offending with his "eyes wide
open". He narrowly escaped imprisonment for drug offending in
2009, a High Court judge giving him home detention in the
hope it would assist his rehabilitation.
At the time of the offending this year, he was on bail for
charges involving serious violence for which he was jailed
for two years and nine months in August.
Cook was yesterday sentenced to four years' imprisonment -
three years and three months on the cannabis charges, and an
additional nine months for the criminal breach of trust.
The four-year term was added to the two years and nine months
of his present sentence, taking the total prison time to six
years and nine months.
The Crown summary said Cook and three others operated the We
Against Violence Trust.
It received funding from the New Zealand Government via the
Ministry of Maori Development (Te Puni Kokiri) and the
district health board and was registered with the Charities
It opened a bank account on July 20 last year and received a
$41,400 deposit from Te Puni Kokiri and $5000 from the health
board in December. The last identified government deposit was
$10,350 from Te Puni Kokiri on April 5 this year and, at
April 13, the trust account had a balance of $17,099.41.
Police intercepted calls in which Cook told others the
Dunedin chapter of the Notorious Mongrel Mob was seen as a
model for other chapters of the gang on how to receive Whanau
Ora funding from Te Puni Kokiri. They revealed Cook was being
mentored through the funding process by senior national gang
members elsewhere in New Zealand and he was mentoring another
local gang on how to obtain government funding.
Cook outlined a plan to increase the trust's bank account and
believed that, by claiming the initial $5000 as fees for
building the plan, as opposed to it being paid directly to
the families, they could spend the money any way they liked.
He also discussed that the trust hoped to raise $115,000 this
year from submitting plans and how the Whanau Ora funding had
"worked well for us down here".
The We Against Violence Trust deed outlined as its objective
to aid, assist and educate wha-nau and to promote
non-offensive and non-violent lifestyles.
Between March 21 and April 10 this year, Cook and others were
involved in transferring $20,000 in government funds from the
trust account to personal bank accounts, the money then being
spent on cannabis.
Crown counsel Craig Power said the first quantity of cannabis
- seven pounds - was sourced from an Auckland supplier for an
estimated $24,500 but was seized by police from the
offenders' camper van during the Cook Strait ferry crossing.
The gang believed it had been stolen so Cook organised the
purchase of another six pounds for $21,000 from a West Coast
source. That cannabis was seized by police who stopped the
courier on his way back to Dunedin.
Mr Power said Cook's criminal history, his gang involvement,
his fraudulent use of government money, his past history of
offending, including eight previous convictions for drug
offending, and the fact he was on bail at the time, warranted
a prison term totalling up to five years although his
existing prison term had to be taken into account.
Defence counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said there had been
no use of a gang house or firearms as part of the offending
as in other cases, and no proceeds were received from drug
sales because both quantities of cannabis were "lost" before
they reached Dunedin.
The We Against Violence Trust was set up before any Whanau
Ora money had been available. It was a legitimate
organisation with the stated aim of providing assistance to
whanau. The funds received had resulted in applications to
various organisations. It was not a case of applications
being made for government money which was then immediately
spent on cannabis.
There had been significant legitimate transactions and, of
the $56,000 received, only $20,000 was used for criminal
purposes, Ms Saunderson-Warner said.
She described Cook's personal circumstances as "a dichotomy".
He had done good things for the community as well as bad
things, had been heavily involved in Maori sport, including
rugby, and had been a role model, although at times he
displayed behaviour he would not want taken as a model.
Judge Crosbie said he took a somewhat cynical view of the
intention expressed by Cook to make changes. Similar
statements had been made to the High Court judge in 2009,
when Cook claimed he was leaving the gang.
He had seen his gang chapter as a model for other chapters to
receive funding and, despite the aim of the trust to aid,
assist and educate, had come to a point where he believed he
could spend the money as he wished. That greatly exacerbated
the criminality of the cannabis offending and justified an
increase in the ultimate sentence.