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30-year-old says he was lookout, not mastermind as teen bandits committed $146k smash-and-grab

Author
Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Jan 2024, 6:20PM

30-year-old says he was lookout, not mastermind as teen bandits committed $146k smash-and-grab

Author
Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Jan 2024, 6:20PM

A 30-year-old who served as a lookout as six teens, some as young as 15, pilfered nearly $150,000 worth of valuables from a popular Auckland Central jewellery store insisted in court today that he wasn’t the ringleader behind the smash-and-grab.

A judge initially seemed dubious of the claim as Mount Roskill resident Mose Jamain Tavey Filiga appeared at Auckland District Court for sentencing.

Judge Kathryn Maxwell told the defendant she had been considering imprisonment despite others who admitted to participating in the Queen St Michael Hill Jewellery heist having received non-custodial sentences last year. Filiga, she noted, wouldn’t be eligible to apply for a sentence discount due to youth.

But she settled on a sentence of home detention, in part after the defendant agreed to pay $5000 in reparations to the business to cover its insurance excess for the damage and lost goods.

Police allege Filiga and the six teens, between the ages of 15 and 19, took two stolen vehicles to the Michael Hill store around 2.45am on August 30, 2022. One of the stolen vehicles had been driven by Filiga, according to the agreed summary of facts read aloud in court today.

The teens are then alleged to have smashed their way into the store by breaking a side window with a “variety of hand-held tools” before using the same tools to smash display cases. They were forced to flee three minutes later after fog cannons went off but managed to grab $146,000 worth of valuables, court documents state.

The stolen cars were abandoned on nearby Princes St and the group piled into two other vehicles, one of which was Filiga’s car.

Filiga later admitted to police he had participated in the burglary but said it was only after a friend asked him to assist. In court today, defence lawyer Marek Hamlin said his client was intoxicated that morning and knew “something was going to happen” but didn’t anticipate that his friends were planning to target a jewellery store.

“He was certainly not the ringleader,” Hamlin said. “He is extremely apologetic for his role. He made a weak decision while intoxicated.

“He fully knows he should have walked away from this situation.”

The lawyer submitted a letter of remorse from his client, as well as letters of support from a church pastor and members of his family who attended today’s hearing.

Despite the age imbalance, the judge agreed there was not enough evidence to hold him responsible as a ringleader. But his version of events was also not entirely credible, Maxwell indicated.

“He just seems to tip-toe away from taking full responsibility for what occurred,” she explained.

“I do not accept ... that your level of knowledge was different to the others,” the judge later added, rejecting his bid for community detention and community work rather than home detention. “You were the adult in this situation, Mr Filiga — your co-defendants were teenagers.”

But she also noted that it was important for the victims to be compensated for their financial losses, and Filiga - employed as a painter - was the only defendant so far who had offered to pay reparations. He was ordered to serve 11 months’ home detention for the burglary charge, with a stipulation that he be allowed to leave home for work.

He was also ordered to serve a concurrent three-month home detention sentence and pay $500 reparation for the stolen car he drove to the burglary.

Bayley James Christensen appears for sentencing at Christchurch District Court for jewellery store heists in Auckland and Christchurch. Photo / Pool Stuff
Bayley James Christensen appears for sentencing at Christchurch District Court for jewellery store heists in Auckland and Christchurch. Photo / Pool Stuff

Today’s hearing comes nearly seven months after co-defendant Bayley James Christensen, now 21, was sentenced in Christchurch District Court to five years’ imprisonment. Christensen, however, had also been linked to two other heists: one targeting Southmall Jewellers in Manurewa during business hours on July 25, 2022, and another targeting a Michael Hill jewellery store in Newmarket on August 24 that year, just a week before the Queen St Michael Hill store was burgled.

During the Manurewa robbery, two offenders burst into the business just after 2pm and made off with about $40,000 worth of jewellery after using hammers to smash the display cabinets, court documents state. The Newmarket incident occurred just after 3.30am and involved five people who arrived and left in a stolen vehicle after smashing the front door and grabbing jewellery estimated to be worth $714,616.

“At the age of 20, it is clear you have made a complete mess of your life,” Judge Stephen O’Driscoll told the co-defendant in June.

Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.

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