Two Comanchero MC associates have received lengthy jail terms for their roles in a home invasion robbery of a Mount Maunganui couple who were mistakenly targeted.
Junior Moke, 27, and William Court-Clausen, 30, were sentenced in Tauranga District Court on Monday, after they earlier pleaded guilty to a joint charge of aggravated robbery.
The court heard that early on July 20, 2018, a group of masked and armed men travelled from Auckland in two vehicles, and used a sledgehammer to smash their way into the home of the victims in Valley Rd.
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Moke and Court-Clausen and other masked intruders armed with weapons, including a baton, a knife and firearms, held the couple at gunpoint and demanded drugs and money and eventually fled with $40 of yoga money before the police arrived.
The female victim was left bruised and traumatised after being manhandled and her husband was threatened with a gun held inches from his face.
But the offenders had targeted the wrong address. A police officer lived nearby and Court-Clausen was arrested two hours later and charged the next day.
Moke was arrested on September 12 last year and pleaded guilty to his part in the robbery on December 20.
Crown solicitor Anna Pollett told Judge Thomas Ingram the Crown sought a sentence start point of 12 years, before discounts for guilty pleas and personal mitigating factors.
She said 12 years was justified given the aggravating features to the robbery, including the degree of premeditation, planning, and gang-related standover tactics used.
At least four offenders wearing disguises and armed with weapons, including at least two firearms, broke in the home of two “very vulnerable” victims who were still traumatised from their “harrowing experience”.
Moke had a conviction for armed robbery in 2013 and other significant offending in 2009 in Australia, and Court-Clausen also had a dishonesty conviction in Australia.
Both men were deported from Australia in 2017.
Court-Clausen’s lawyer Ron Mansfield and Moke’s lawyer Maria Pecotic argued the Crown’s sentence starting point was too high.
Mansfield said the Crown’s start point was “excessive” when compared to sentences imposed for armed robberies involving a greater degree of violence and planning.
“Unfortunately, this was a pretty apple pie home invasion, which I submit would not take it above eight to nine years’ start point or 10 years at its highest,” he said.
Mansfield said his client was motivated to rehabilitate himself and was remorseful. He had been keen to speak to the victims to apologise but that had not been possible.
Pecotic said there were prior cases of far greater seriousness in terms of the violence used and degree of sophistication and planning.
Judge Ingram disagreed that it was an “apple-pie” or stock standard home invasion robbery after a lot of research into the gravity of the offending.
“In my 40 years in the courts, and all the other cases cited to me, I have not been able to come up with another case anywhere near this degree of planning and sophistication.
“This is a gang operation organised from some considerable distance away from the target address. It involved at least four offenders who obtained vehicles, weapons and disguises and drove the 180km in the dead of the night to carry out the robbery.”
The judge said it was a “pretty sophisticated” operation, which required him to send a clear deterrent message to Moke and Court-Clausen and the wider community.
“If you had not targeted the wrong house, it was unlikely your offending would have been detected as most drug dealers rarely report a robbery to the police,” he said.
Judge Ingram said Court-Clausen claimed he was ordered by the Comancheros hierarchy to commit the robbery, but Moke denied he was acting on instructions of any organization.
The judge said he was satisfied that both men were effectively active members of the club, and Moke was in possession of one of the firearms believed used in the robbery.
Judge Ingram sentenced Court-Clausen to nine years’ prison after taking into account his guilty plea, remorse and a modest uplift for prior convictions.
The judge said also took into account that both men had particularly disadvantaged and deprived family backgrounds, which led them to turn to crime.
Moke, who appeared in court via audio-visual link from prison, was handed a cumulative sentence of six years and two months’ prison.
Moke was already serving a jail term of four years’ and eight months for arson and dangerous driving causing death, the latter related to the death of a friend.