Spared jail for drug and fraud offences

A cannabis grower who had his car set alight in a bid for a $9500 insurance payout, got in with "the wrong crowd", a court has heard.

Sumnan Ung (28) developed a "misguided sense of loyalty" to some undesirable new friends during his criminal activity between February and April, defence counsel Nathan Laws told the Dunedin District Court this week.

It began when Ung established a cannabis cultivation system in the spare room of his St Kilda home with another man.

They set up two grow tents with staggered crops; one with a hydroponic set-up containing four plants as tall as 45cm when police searched the home, another with seven immature plants growing in soil, artificially heated and lit.

It was clear the pair had harvested at least once, police said.

Ung's troubles deepened in the following weeks.

He lent his 2005 Subaru Legacy station wagon to a 36-year-old co-defendant (who has pleaded not guilty to his role).

At 4am on April 4, the pair met and later that day the car was "totally destroyed by fire".

The next day Ung approached police and told them he left it somewhere and returned to find it missing before later discovering it had been burnt out.

He made no mention of lending the vehicle to his friend and backed his story a week later in a formal written statement to police.

On April 11, Ung was interviewed by an AMI claims assessor after his father had informed them of the incident.

He lied about who had access to the Subaru, where he had parked it and what condition it was in; all in a bid for a $9500 payout.

When the fraud unravelled and police raided Ung's home, they found a glass methamphetamine pipe among his possessions.

Mr Laws stressed the insurer had not paid out on the policy and "[the claim] was, at all times, doomed to fail".

Ung claimed he had not pushed his father to make the insurance claim and was surprised he had called the company.

Judge Kevin Phillips did not buy that explanation.

"You say it was never your intention to make a claim . . . you need to own up and front up to your family and yourself," he said.

The offending was clearly driven by Ung's drug addiction, the judge said.

While the behaviour called for the strongest denunciation and deterrence, he was reluctant to send the defendant to jail.

"That in my view would totally destroy your life," he said.

Ung pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis, obtaining by deception, making a false statement and possession of a meth pipe.

He was sentenced to four months' community detention, nine months' supervision and 120 hours' community work.



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