Mama Hooch sex 'predators': Brothers at centre of drink-spiking case named

Danny Jaz (left) and Roberto Jaz have been convicted of rape and a raft of other charges relating...
Danny Jaz (left) and Roberto Jaz have been convicted of rape and a raft of other charges relating to the drugging and sexual assault of women at their family bar and restaurant Mama Hooch and Venuti in Christchurch. Photo: Pool via NZ Herald
WARNING: This story refers to sexual assault and contains strong language

Christchurch brothers Danny Jaz and Roberto Jaz can now be named publicly as the Mama Hooch rapists.

They are the men who targeted women at the central Christchurch bar - and a nearby restaurant - owned by their family.

They are the men who a court heard did whatever it took to get what they wanted from women - from teens who recently turned 18, to their own staff members - drugging and stupefying so they could rape, violate and assault them.

They are the men who - even after being interviewed by detectives about allegations against them - were not deterred.

They can now be revealed as prolific sex offenders - with almost 70 convictions between them - who a court heard are “predators”, “fixated with sex” and, arguably most seriously, “indifferent to consent”.

And now, after years of secrecy, we can finally show you their faces.

The men’s names have been suppressed since they were charged in 2018.

But today the prohibition on publication was lifted by a High Court judge, meaning that the Jaz brothers, their sordid offending and vast convictions can be reported.

Two other men connected to the Jaz brothers still cannot be named. One was convicted of offering to supply a woman with illicit drugs and acquitted on a host of sex charges - another was acquitted on a single sexual violation charge.

Danny, 40, and Roberto, 38, were born and raised in Australia and moved to New Zealand in their later years.

Family members purchased the bar on Colombo St and later a restaurant - Venuti - a couple of doors down.

Danny was employed as bar manager at Hooch and Roberto as the chef at Venuti.

The venues soon became a hunting ground for the sex-obsessed brothers.

When the offending began, both the brothers had long-term partners - Danny’s is the mother of his two young children.

The women both worked at Mama Hooch in the mornings serving coffee and by all accounts had no idea what the brothers were up to after dark.

Being in relationships, and having kids - that didn’t stop the siblings.

Their group chats - which also included numerous other men - were made up of thousands of messages about women.

At their trial, Judge Paul Mabey sat and listened to hours of lewd comments about what the men had done, wanted to do, dreamed of doing, and what they thought of specific women and their bodies.

They called each other “rapist” and joked about “roofies” - substances often used in drug-facilitated sexual assaults.

They shared photos of women - staff, bar patrons, young job seekers - and argued over who would have them.

Police found footage on phones too - 14 minutes of crude footage of a woman being raped and assaulted made up of 11 short snippets which the court heard were recorded without her knowledge.

Both men initially denied any of the offending, saying they had no knowledge of any drink-spiking at the bar, and they were adamant that any sexual contact - if it happened at all - was consensual.

A woman claimed she was drugged and raped by Roberto and another man. They said that was consensual group sex, and she was into it.

Two 18-year-olds described being physically and sexually assaulted by Roberto after he plied them with a strong drug that rendered them unable to walk and see at points. He claimed that was also consensual and one of them only cried foul because she felt guilty about cheating on her boyfriend.

“It was better for you to tell your boyfriend [the sexual activity] was non-consensual … the idea of non-consensual [sexual activity] was convenient wasn’t it?” Roberto’s lawyer put to one of the women.

She was firm in her response. Consistent.

“I consented to nothing - he was pulling my hair … he was biting me … he was touching me everywhere ... Without my consent.”

Danny Jaz behind the bar at Mama Hooch. Photo: Facebook
Danny Jaz behind the bar at Mama Hooch. Photo: Facebook
Danny Jaz guilty - but the trial goes on

Days into the trial, Danny pleaded guilty to 21 counts of sexual violation and indecent assault, all charges he was facing individually.

He denied the rest of the charges including raping a former staffer with his brother and another man; and all charges of stupefying and disabling people at the bar.

The trial went on, Roberto continued to deny any offending at all.

The court heard accounts from more than 130 people - victims, complainants, witnesses and experts - about what had been going on at Mama Hooch.

The majority of complainants had experience with drinking and with MDMA and knew how the substances impacted them on a “normal” night, and how they pulled up the next day.

None had ever had a night like they had at Mama Hooch.

“Unable to control body movements, head spinning, feeling like being under anaesthetic, out-of-character behaviours such as rage, feeling extremely anxious and scared of objects,” Crown Prosecutor Andrew McRae listed.

“Memory loss and blackouts, vomiting, body feeling weak … feeling unwell for several days.”

At the end of the trial, Judge Mabey found Danny guilty of rape and a raft of other sex and stupefying charges.

He found Roberto guilty of rape, sex charges, making an intimate recording and possession of objectionable material.

Not a flicker of emotion passed over the brothers’ faces as their fate was delivered, which could result in up to 20 years in prison.

When the trial opened, prosecutor McRae did not mince any words in describing the “predatory” Jaz brothers.

He explained they “fixated” on sex and, in their 30s at the time, targeted “much younger” women with a clear “indifference to consent”.

Effectively, if they wanted a woman - they would do what they needed to get her.

“When they were unable to establish consensual relations with females - notwithstanding the fact that they were all in long-standing relationships with their respective partners - they turn to means by which such sexual contact could be facilitated, and typically, that meant drugs,” McRae said.

“There were occasions where females rejected unwanted sexual advances from the defendants after being given free drugs and or alcohol. These females were significantly younger than the defendants and were not sexually interested

“Further, [the men worked to] facilitate the administration of the alcoholic drinks, events with stupefying substance. It’s alleged that this was to encourage the atmosphere … to lower the resistance to the advances.”

For three years the “predators” used the bar as a hunting ground, using its toilet cubicles to offend - or leading their prey to another site with the promise of free drinks or recreational drugs and doing the unthinkable to them there.

But on July 16, 2018, two brave women - one who had turned 18 just days earlier - went to police.

Uncovering the rapists - the brave young women who sparked Operation Sinatra

When the women went to the police it was not the first time Danny Jaz and Mama Hooch had come across officers’ radar.

There had been an earlier report of a woman who’d been at the bar being found unconscious on a footpath nearby; an incident where a patron was removed and lashed out at a police officer when a patrol car was flagged down.

In October 2017, a woman went to police and reported Danny Jaz had sexually violated her in a toilet cubicle at Mama Hooch.

She’d been on the dancefloor and he’d followed her, grabbing her and trying to have sex with her.

She “swatted” him away and he overpowered her, trying to force her into a sex act.

She felt “disgusting” at the time but, at just 19, didn’t know how to fend off the man in his mid-30s and was worried there would be social ramifications for her and her friends.

The woman remembered leaving Mama Hooch but nothing more until she woke up the next day - panicking and confused and feeling desperately unwell.

Police investigated her complaint and, in May 2018, Danny Jaz was formally interviewed.

However, there was not enough evidence for police to charge the man and no further action was taken.

The former Mama Hooch bar. It is now owned and run by completely different people and has a new...
The former Mama Hooch bar. It is now owned and run by completely different people and has a new name. Photo: Google Maps
Under the Crown Solicitor’s prosecution guidelines, police have to meet a certain threshold of evidence to charge a person with an offence. There has to be a realistic chance the prosecution will lead to a conviction.

While the woman was believed, the evidence was just not there to bring a case.

The July 2018 complaint was different and police were able to move in on the brothers - and two other men.

The night before the two victims - Katherine and Penny (not their real names) - had been attacked, they started their evening with dinner and a shared bottle of wine with a friend at Venuti.

Penny had turned 18 that week and the girls were out to celebrate.

During the night they had a wine or two and shared a dose of MDMA between them. They were coherent and functioning.

They parted for a while as Penny went to a gig at another bar, but united at Mama Hooch later in the night.

Katherine had worked for the Jaz boys for a time so when Roberto invited her to Venuti for a drink she thought nothing of it.

She asked if Penny could come and Roberto said no - but she wasn’t keen to go on her own.

Penny was reluctant, she thought it was “weird” the chef was showing interest in them because he was “old”.

But she agreed to go with her friend.

They went into the kitchen and Roberto “poured a white substance onto a table” and used an Eftpos card to cut it into lines.

Venuti is also now closed. Photo: George Heard
Venuti is also now closed. Photo: George Heard
The girls asked what it was - repeatedly - and he assured them it was MDMA.

As soon as they snorted it they knew something was very, very wrong.

It was unlike anything they had taken before - their vision blurred and blacked out, their nose and throat burned, and they felt like they had no control over their bodies, that they were “underwater”.

“I can’t see,” Penny screamed at Katherine, who was “blanking in and out”.

I kept trying to say ‘stop, no’ - a victim’s ordeal

The rest of their ordeal comes in terrifying shards of memory.


“I remember him being on top of me in the back of the restaurant … He was so strong and I couldn’t move … he kept on putting his hand on my face and trying to kiss me … I also remember I must have been trying to get away and trying to walk and I couldn’t walk.

“I’d be on the ground and he’d come over and pull my hair … I remember him biting my back … the whole time I was so scared, I didn’t know what to do.

“He had all the control, he was so strong … and I couldn’t get away … I was scared and (Penny) was scared too and whatever was happening was really dangerous.

“It was like being in water … my ears were ringing and I couldn’t see, I just felt really confused. I had no idea what was going on.

“I just remember trying to move … I kept on trying to say ‘stop, no’.”

“It just felt like it was going on forever. He was persistent in not doing as I wished … I could hear crashing and glasses breaking from trying to move away …

“It was almost like sleep paralysis like I was in and out, semi-coherent … aware of what was happening but I couldn’t do anything to get away from that space because my body wouldn’t allow me to.”


“As soon as I took it it started to burn … I was in agonising pain … we were trying to help each other to walk and we were screaming at him ‘what did you give us’… we were screaming at him to f*** off, to not come near us.

“Katherine was just rolling around on the ground talking to herself, and then I remember him on top of me … he was grinding against me … I just kept blacking out.

“I remember him pulling Katherine round by her hair … I went to the bathroom to get away from him … after we took the drug, I didn’t feel safe around him. I couldn’t look after myself, I could hardly stand.

“I kept saying f*** you, what did you give me … I remember him biting me, a lot. I remember being in pain a lot and him just biting me on my lip, somewhere on my face, my hand my fingers, and tugging my hair quite a lot.

“I remember seeing (Katherine) unconscious and I remember seeing him kissing her from her face to her body … her telling him to f*** off, telling him she has a boyfriend, telling him this isn’t right and he just kept telling her to shut up.

“I was just watching when I could open up my eyes, I was seeing parts of what was happening ... Her slapping him in the face, she got really angry but then she would pass out again. He was constantly pulling her hair really hard. She slapped him a few times … then she’d pass out again.”

At some point, Penny managed to get out of Venuti.

She went and got in her car and drove to a friend’s house.

She explained in court that she was in no state to drive and hoped like hell she would get pulled over or crash and that would trigger police and she could tell them about what had happened.

Katherine remained with Roberto, who led her around the block to Calendar Girls.

She had tried to call her boyfriend and get him to pick her up but her phone had died. She knew a girl who worked at the club and thought if she could just get there she would be safe.

Footage at the club shows Katherine unable to sit still, flicking her hair around, constantly moving and touching her face, rolling her head from side to side.

She remembers none of it.

Roberto and Danny Jaz are brothers and convicted rapists. Photo: Facebook
Roberto and Danny Jaz are brothers and convicted rapists. Photo: Facebook
‘He was so close to raping you - you said NO’

Text messages between Katherine and Penny the day after the attack were also presented in court as evidence.

They chatted briefly about the night before - their memory blanks, the worry about what they had ingested, and the fear of what may have happened to them.

Katherine: “Can you please tell me everything he did and tried to do.”

Penny: “I saw him on top of you, you were semi-passed out, he kept grabbing your face so he could kiss you or if you walked he would grab you. I was so high I was trying to stop it but I couldn’t and he did to me too. I didn’t know what to do.”

Katherine: “That makes me feel sick … did he actually do anything to me?”

Penny: “He actually hooked up with you … you said no … he was so close to raping you … You got away. You hit him. He tried again.”

Katherine: “OK, I don’t know what to do. I feel disgusting”.

Penny: “I feel disgusting. I’m going to the hospital now cos I’m so high and I’m so sick. I’m just getting a drug test and getting some meds I don’t want this reported.”

By 7pm that night, Penny felt differently and was ready to involve the police. She’d spent most of the day at an emergency medical clinic and had been put on a drip because she was in such a bad way.

Penny: “Katherine, they said this is really serious, they want us to involve the cops. I’m so sick … Is this ok that the police get involved? All the doctors looking after me and nurses said this is one of the really bad assaults.”

Penny: “I know it was a sexual assault ... no one has the right to use these harsh drugs and try have sex with him while we are passing out - you were even hitting him to stop and yelling stop. What he did was so f***ed up, they said it was one of the worse cases they have had in a while.”

Medical staff reported the matter to the police, with Penny’s consent, that night.

By 10pm, officers were at Katherine’s house to speak to her.

“That’s when it hit me, that’s when I started to come to terms with what had actually happened,” Katherine told the court.

Roberto Jaz - denials and lies in police interview

The women made formal statements to police and a search warrant was executed at Venuti the next day that discovered evidence that fit with the complaint - including traces of illicit drugs and bodily fluids included.

Roberto Jaz was interviewed and denied any wrongdoing.

Yes, he’d taken Katherine down to Venuti but no, there’d been no drugs, and definitely no second woman.

He conceded there had been some sexual contact but that Katherine had initiated it.

“It felt right, you know, consensual”, he told police after he was arrested and interviewed on July 16.

“It wasn’t forceful and I don’t recall her ever saying ‘stop’ ... she was reciprocating, I guess you could say … it felt consensual.

“If it’s come across [as an assault], I kind of feel bad for that now.”

Roberto Jaz claimed his drink may have also been spiked during a bizarre police interview. Photo:...
Roberto Jaz claimed his drink may have also been spiked during a bizarre police interview. Photo: Supplied
Roberto’s maintained he didn’t see Penny there at all - maybe because the lights weren’t on, maybe because he was more drunk than he’d thought.

“I could’ve potentially had something put in my drink, I don’t know … which made me lose my memory.

“That’s very disturbing for me … You know, it doesn’t sound like me.”

Roberto’s phone was seized but he was not charged, pending further investigation.

Police launched Operation Sinatra and started peeling back the dirty layers of the Mama Hooch scandal - linking the older reports to new ones relating to drink-spiking.

On August 23, 2018, police said they had connected 24 complaints of stupefying to the bar.

The net was closing on the brothers.

Roberto Jaz was arrested the next day - as he tried to board a flight to Sydney at 5.35am he triggered an Interpol alert put in place by police in case he tried to flee.

He claimed he was going to see a friend and planned to return the next week, and, that his lawyer had told him he could go.

He was driven directly to the Christchurch Central Police Station, where he was arrested and charged in relation to the July 16 assault on the teenage girls.

On November 15, 2018, police were back at Roberto’s front door in the early hours, serving the pajama-clad offender with a search warrant.

By the end of the day he was facing more charges - rape, unlawful sexual connection, making intimate recordings, possessing objectionable material, stupefying and supplying Class B drugs.

Danny Jaz was also charged with rape, stupefying and supplying Class B drugs.

A third man - whose name cannot yet be published - was charged with rape, indecent assault, unlawful sexual connection and stupefying.

The vile gig was finally up.

During their trial, lawyers for Danny and Roberto put to the women that they were too drunk or drugged to clearly remember their nights - too out of it to recall consenting.

The women did consent at the time, their legal counsel argued, they were willing participants and that they were lying or that their memories were created or imagined - possibly after speaking to others about their nights at Mama Hooch or Venuti.

The women did not waiver.

There was no consent.

They were drugged. They were attacked.

“I had no control over my body - that man could have raped me and I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Penny said.

“We can’t walk, we can’t talk … this man has to carry us around … that is not consent.”

Danny and Roberto Jaz will be sentenced across two days in July by Judge Mabey.

The other man who stood trial with the now-convicted rapists was acquitted on all charges except one of offering to supply Class B drugs.

He will be sentenced in July and is seeking a discharge without conviction and permanent name suppression.

The fourth man connected to the Mama Hooch sex assault case was also acquitted on the one charge he was facing of violating a woman.

Judge Mabey said while there was reasonable doubt around the Crown case meaning he simply could not convict the man - he was certainly not an innocent party when it came to the “culture” of disrespect, depravity and denigration the men as a group had created around women.


If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone, contact Safe to Talk confidentially, any time 24/7:

• Call 0800 044 334

• Text 4334

• Email

• For more info or to web chat visit

Alternatively contact your local police station.

If you have been sexually abused, remember it’s not your fault.

By Anna Leask