Car Squad puts brakes on meth dealer

Car Squad puts brakes on meth dealer

Koru Meihana Coker ran a tidy business from his Porirua workshop, swapping high-value stolen vehicles for methamphetamine or cash.

Now he is starting a prison sentence, one of the most significant criminal scalps claimed by Wellington District’s Car Squad during its two-and-a-half years of operation.

Coker, 36, of Titahi Bay, Porirua, came to the squad’s attention as a mainstay of the local market in stolen vehicles.

A talented mechanic with a legitimate garage business, he also ran chop shops where high-end stolen vehicles were broken down and repurposed for sale.

On 8 May 2015, the Car Squad terminated two warrants at workshops in Raiha Street and Kenepuru Drive, Porirua, and recovered two stolen vehicles, methamphetamine utensils and a firearm.

“Our intel was that he was a prolific car offender and driving vehicle crime across the whole Wellington district,” says Detective Nathan Smith, the squad’s first OC.

“He has a lot of skills as a mechanic. He wouldn’t steal cars himself but he would drive crime through receiving. He had the money, he had the workshop; he received vehicles and paid money for them.”

Coker admitted a charge relating to one of the vehicles and received a community-based sentence. This did little to deter his offending. Vehicles were still being stolen, and many fitted Coker’s MO.

“We thought if we’re going to expend time and resources on more car convictions we’re going to probably get a similar sort of sentence,” says Nathan. “But we had information that he was dealing meth, and sometimes swapping meth for cars.

“If we could get a successful prosecution for dealing meth we were pretty confident he would get a term of imprisonment.”

Constable Alyce Fulford, one of three investigators seconded to the Car Squad, was assigned to the case full-time, with support from the Covert Operations Group.

Although the squad’s focus is car crime, she says, her focus was the methamphetamine. “The consequences were likely be to a lot more than for dishonesty charges.”

In February 2016 another warrant was executed in Keneperu Drive. A police detector dog sniffed out 1.4g of meth concealed in a barrel of motor oil. Also found were LSD, $2000 cash and evidence of drug dealing.

On bail, Coker shifted his operations to the rural surroundings of Flighty’s Road, Judgeford, and intelligence indicated a large amount of meth dealing was taking place there.

By June 2016 there was enough evidence for 19 or 20 methamphetamine supply charges. Early on 8 September the Car Squad made its move with warrants executed at Flighty’s Road and Coker’s home address in Titahi Bay.

They caught Coker in the process of doing a drug deal. The squad found two rebirthed vehicles, $3000 cash, cannabis – again in a barrel of motor oil - and stolen tools.

“We knew before going in that we had enough evidence for a four or five-year term of imprisonment,” says Alyce. “Then the termination turned up more.”

Alyce identified more than 41 individual methamphetamine dealing offences but ultimately Coker faced two representative supply charges, which he admitted.

On Friday at Wellington District Court, Coker was imprisoned for two years eight months, the starting point of four years eight months discounted for a late guilty plea and time spent on EM bail.

“Taking on a significant drug dealer did stretch us but it was one of the most rewarding things we did,” says Nathan, now a PST supervisor based at Kapiti Police Station.

“It was outside our normal terms of reference but it was worthwhile. He was someone we really wanted to get.”

“Sometimes it’s about thinking outside the square and utilising the resources around you,” says Alyce. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

How to drive down crime - the Wellington Car Squad story