Sefton properties displayed on the NZME OneRoof property website. Photo/oneroof.co.nz
A woman who kept the books for her fellow tribesmen and helped them find places to stash drugs and cash lost a four-hectare lifestyle block as part of the punishment.
Connie Elizabeth Ross, 55, also known as Connie Smith, received two years and nine months in prison in 2020 for being involved in a methamphetamine ring run by her son, Andrew Michael Smith. Ross was found guilty of possessing a firearm and attempting to distort the course of justice.
Ross, her son, and another accomplice were all described as associates of the tribe’s gang.
Since then, her vacant land in North Canterbury has been under the control of official transferees, government officials who control property obtained through criminal activity. The block was seized by police under the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery) Act.
Now a high court judge has ordered the property to be sold so the money can be returned to the king.
In her Christchurch district court ruling, Ross was described as “essentially the treasurer or bookkeeper” of the meth ring.
She managed money, found places to hide drugs, and removed evidence.
When her house was eventually raided by the police, a semi-automatic pistol was found hidden in a pile of clean laundry.
There is plenty of evidence pointing to Ross’ involvement in the operation, and police monitored her phone calls and communications in October and November 2017.
At one point, Smith asked his mother how much cash she had at home. Between $35,000 and $40,000 she replied.
He told her to count $30,000 and give it to a colleague.
After securing a conviction against Ross, police tracked down her assets.
At a hearing in Christchurch High Court in June of this year, Ross was asked to explain that he had more than $350,000 in cash in his bank account.
Ross told the court that she earned her income from a puppy breeding business, cutting trees and selling firewood, selling silage, ranching, and selling some commodities on Trade Me. Her husband, Richard Ross. also earned income from security work.
However, the High Court issued an order for forfeiture of assets, including a block of land registered in the names of Connie and Richard Ross.
In the High Court of Christchurch, Judge Rob Osborne has now issued an order to sell the land at 751 Lower Sefton Road, Waimakariri to the rightful assignee.
The property is described on the Quotable Value website as a 4 hectare vacant lifestyle block and was last sold in 2013 for $199,000.
The most recent valuation in 2019 was $250,000, with $230,000 for the land and $20,000 for improvements.
A real estate appraisal site estimates the current value could be $375,000.
Police say property seizures are aimed at directly impacting the financial interests of gangs, one of the driving forces of organized crime such as drug trafficking.