Tribesmen MC Canterbury gang associate admits role in meth dealing operation

A Tribesmen MC gang associate today admitted his "logistics" role in a Canterbury meth-dealing ring which was busted with drugs with a street value of up to $3 million.

Trent Michael Francis Ilton was caught with nearly 3kg of methamphetamine and $38,000 cash when police raided his Christchurch home during the first Covid lockdown in May 2020.

Today, 33-year-old Ilton appeared in the High Court dock in Christchurch to admit a charge of supplying the class A drug.

He will be sentenced in August.

But, for the first time, it can be revealed how the Tribesmen operation was running.

In October 2019, police officers from Canterbury's organised crime group launched Operation Soul, which was targeted to delve into the suspected drug-dealing activities of the local Tribesmen MC gang chapter.

Crown prosecutor Aaron Harvey this morning said the investigation revealed that the Canterbury gang members were buying meth from an Auckland-based supplier.

The drugs were then distributed to various South Island dealers.

Ilton, the summary of facts says, was a Tribesmen gang associate after being close with a patched member.

He was living in the Christchurch suburb of Bryndwr during Covid-19 alert level 3 on May 4, 2020, when police swooped on his home.

They found a cardboard box with three large vacuum-packed bags of meth, weighing just under 3kgs and which had an estimated street value of $2m to $3m.

Ilton was found at the property while officers also uncovered $38,000 in cash, which was stashed around the house, including in the bedroom, $4550 found in the kitchen wine rack, $22,400 behind the computer server in the garage, and $1320 in his wallet.

Tribesmen gear including a hoodie and badges was also found, along with scales and 35 used Pressie cards – a non-traceable credit card.

Ilton refused to make any comment or explanation to police but the summary of facts says he was involved in organising the gang's drug-dealing logistics.

He was involved in booking travel, counting stacks of money and gear storage.

Such were the quantities of cash involved that he counted in bundles of $10,000 and "significantly exceeded $100,000" each time.

Ilton's role extended to transporting counted cash. On one occasion, the summary says, Ilton went to Christchurch International Airport with two others, carrying a dark backpack. They went through airport screening separately but after 13 minutes in the domestic departure lounge, Ilton left without boarding – and without his bag.

There was no evidence, the court heard, that Ilton was a major drug user but rather that he received financial compensation and that he worked under the direction of gang bosses.

Justice Cameron Mander remanded Ilton in custody for sentencing on August 5.

-By Kurt Bayer

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