National | Court

Judge orders sale of meth ring bookkeeper's land

A woman who kept the books for Tribesmen associates and helped them find places to hide drugs and cash has lost her four-hectare lifestyle block as part of her punishment.

Connie Elizabeth Ross, 55, also known as Connie Smith, was jailed for two years and nine months in 2020 for her involvement in a methamphetamine ring run by her son Andrew Michael Smith. Ross was convicted of possessing firearms and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Ross, her son and another co-offender were all described as Tribesmen gang associates.

Since then, a vacant block she owns in North Canterbury has come under the control of the Official Assignee - a government official who takes charge of assets obtained through criminal activities. The block was seized by the police under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act.

Now, a High Court judge has ordered that the property be sold so that the money can be returned to the Crown.

At her Christchurch District Court sentencing, Ross was described as "essentially being the treasurer or the bookkeeper" of the meth ring.

She controlled the money, found places to hide drugs, and got rid of evidence.

When her home was finally raided by police, a semi-automatic pistol was found hidden in a pile of clean laundry.

There was plenty of evidence detailing Ross's involvement in the operation - police were monitoring her phone and communications in October and November 2017.

On one occasion, Smith asked his mother how much cash she had in the house. Between $35,000 and $40,000, she replied.

He told her to count out $30,000 and hand it over to an associate.

After securing the convictions against Ross, police went after her assets.

At a hearing in the High Court in Christchurch in June this year, Ross was asked to explain cash deposits of more than $350,000 in her bank accounts.

Ross told the court she generated income from her puppy breeding business, from tree felling and firewood sales, the sale of silage, grazing, and the sale of some items on Trade Me. Her husband, Richard Ross, also received income from doing security work.

However, the High Court made an assets forfeiture order which included the block of land registered in the names of Connie and Richard Ross.

In the High Court at Christchurch, Justice Rob Osborne has now issued an order for the Official Assignee to sell the land at 751 Lower Sefton Road, Waimakariri.

The property is described on the Quotable Value website as a four-hectare vacant lifestyle block, last sold in 2013 for $199,000.

Its latest rating valuation was $250,000 in 2019 - $230,000 in land value and $20,000 for improvements.

Real estate appraisal sites estimate its current value could be $375,000.

Police have said that asset seizures are targeted to have a direct impact on gangs' financial gain, which is one of the drivers of organised crime such as drug dealing.

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