Gang member threatened violence to extract money

Muru Muru Taana-Andrews used standover tactics to swindle large sums of money from his victim....
Muru Muru Taana-Andrews used standover tactics to swindle large sums of money from his victim. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A senior Dunedin gang member blackmailed a retail worker out of up to $250,000 by bombarding him with threats of violence.

Muru Muru Taana-Andrews (33) was yesterday jailed for four years and one month by Judge Michael Turner, when he appeared before the Dunedin District Court.

At the scam's height, the victim was ordered to deliver $500 cash, bags of tobacco filters, boxes of tobacco papers and 20 $90 tobacco pouches to the Mongrel Mob member every week.

Taana-Andrews approached his victim late in 2016 and claimed he had a "compromising photograph" of the man and a young girl from the company's CCTV system.

"The insinuation was one of paedophilia and that if the gang leadership were to find out about the image, they would take violent action against [the victim] for it," a police summary said.

Originally, the defendant claimed $7000 would "make it go away".

But as the victim continued to deliver on request, Taana-Andrews realised he could squeeze out much more from the man.

For several months, the terrified man would make $100 payments every week but it soon escalated to tobacco products, which he would buy from work.

As the money flooded in, Taana-Andrews upped his demands.

There were arbitrary lump-sum payments - anywhere between $500 and $1600 - couched as "interest".

When the victim struggled to keep up and attempted to pull out of the arrangement, the defendant pushed back.

"From then on, at ever-changing intervals, at least weekly, the defendant text-messaged the victim and placed orders of property or cash," court documents said.

The victim stole from his employer just to keep up.

In 2017, he deposited $5000 into an account at Taana-Andrews' direction.

By February 2018, the victim was desperate to remove himself from the relationship and told the defendant it was over.

When the pair met in a car park, Taana-Andrews told the man to sign over ownership of his car or he would "end up in a dumpster".

The more the victim sought to end the arrangement, the more gang members would drive past his place of work in intimidating fashion, the court heard.

If he would not sign over his car to the gang, $7000 cash would do, Taana-Andrews informed him.

The victim applied for a personal loan for that amount but was declined.

In July 2018, an unrelated police investigation into the Mongrel Mob's activities uncovered the extortion.

The victim estimated it had cost him between $100,000 and $250,000 in 20 months.

With police now behind him, the man told Taana-Andrews there would be no more deliveries.

It resulted in an array of threats from the defendant, including that he would "stomp in" the victim's head.

When officers raided Taana-Andrews' home they found a methamphetamine pipe and an outhouse decorated in gang regalia, in which was a 12-gauge shotgun, along with 15 cartridges.

Police seized the defendant's phone and laptop, knowing they would contain evidence of the extensive blackmail, but he refused to give them passwords.

Counsel Anne Stevens QC said her client was remorseful for the harm he caused and was disappointed he could not meet the victim to relay his apologies.

The victim's details were suppressed by Judge Turner, as were the details of his workplace.

 

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