Jail for drugs, robbery plan

Heneli Sofele (23) was arrested as part of a police sting against the Tribesmen Motorcycle Club....
Heneli Sofele (23) was arrested as part of a police sting against the Tribesmen Motorcycle Club. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A gang member who sold drugs and planned an armed robbery says he was trying to raise money to join his family in Australia.

But that reunion will be delayed now after 23-year-old Heneli Sofele was jailed for three years nine months before the Dunedin District Court this week.

He had previously pleaded guilty to class A and B drug offences, conspiring to commit an armed robbery, unlawfully possessing a firearm and failing to assist police in relation to his cell phone.

Sofele was one of several Tribesmen Motorcycle Club arrested following an operation by the Dunedin Organised Crime Squad last year.

Police believed the gang was distributing MDMA (ecstasy), and obtained a surveillance warrant allowing them to be privy to private phone calls and text messages between members.

On September 14, Sofele contacted an associate about selling the class-B drug.

Over the next three days he told 2.4g of MDMA worth $580.

During that period, police also intercepted concerning messages between Sofele and a Dunedin-based co-defendant who is also before the court.

The other gang member sent his mate a photo of a man in possession of thousands of dollars in cash.

On September 16 the pair discussed where he lived, how they would drive there, where they would park and how they would use a pistol to rob him.

They agreed to get hold of a 9mm pistol for the job.

As a result, police staked out the Dunedin home of Sofele's friend and the pair were spoken to early the following morning.

No robbery took place.

The brush with police did not deter Sofele, though.

When they raided his Alexandra home a month later they found $4500 worth of methamphetamine, some of which was bagged up and ready for sale.

In a locked container, Sofele also had $4500 of MDMA, along with $1300 in cash.

The defendant admitted to officers he also had a .270 hunting rifle in the home for which he was unlicensed.

Sofele, the court heard this week, said the planned robbery was just him helping a friend vent his anger.

But Judge Michael Turner said it was clear from the intercepted communications it was ``more than puffery''.

The judge also noted this offending had happened weeks after Sofele had completed a previous sentence.

The defendant denied his links with the Tribesmen.

However, a Probation officer noted Sofele's new tattoos, which they said suggested even stronger ties than before.

In the defendant's favour was his perceived willingness to address his drug-addiction issues, which the judge said may see him admitted to residential rehabilitation once his prison term was complete.

That would be up to the Parole Board.

Judge Turner made an order forfeiting the cash found in the search of Sofele's home, and the drugs and weapons would be destroyed.

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