Senior Waikato Mongrel Mob member Mark Griffiths speaks about the hui the gang held in Hamilton. Video / Alan Gibson
A senior member of the Waikato Mongrel Mob has been exposed as making at least $165,000 in drug profits despite his efforts to keep his hands clean.
Michael Ormsby, or “Mike Dog”, 39, was identified as the financial backer for the criminal enterprise during Operation Gulfport, a covert police investigation into the commercial distribution of methamphetamine in the Waikato.
As the lead investor, Ormsby sat above two other Mongrel Mob members, from other chapters, who oversaw the manufacture of the class A drug in clandestine labs and the day-to-day running of their dealers.
Police found $30,000 in Ormsby’s bedroom when they raided his property in December 2020 and analysis of financial records showed cash deposits of $164,891.33 through various companies linked to Ormsby over the previous three years.
“You were able to distance yourself from the manufacture and dealing, while profiting from the operation,” Justice Gerard van Bohemen said after Ormsby admitted money laundering and cannabis offences.
The involvement of a senior member of the Waikato Mongrel Mob in making money from methamphetamine is in direct contradiction with the public stance of the chapter’s high-profile leader.
Sonny Fatupaito has repeatedly said he has “zero tolerance” for the importation, possession and supply of methamphetamine, and said the kaupapa of his chapter is to educate and influence members away from lives of addiction and crime.
In recent years, the chapter has held hui on the prevention of sexual and family violence and delivered food to 3000 vulnerable people during Covid-19 lockdowns, as well as carrying out vaccination drives.
Asked how Ormsby’s behaviour fitted with those stated values, Fatupaito said: “Just like many organisations we cannot control what individuals do, no matter what our kaupapa aspires to achieve.
“We consist of hundreds of members, and I am acutely proud of members’ achievements in reducing offending.”
Fatupaito said he will continue to focus his energy on supporting our members to gain employment, apprenticeships and education, and to create legitimate businesses to support themselves and their families.
“I am proud that this man has taken responsibility for his offending, and despite this verdict, we will continue our work towards creating better lives for our whānau, no matter what comes our way.”
The sentencing hearing at the High Court also set out the dysfunctional childhood which led Michael Ormsby into a life of crime.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Ormsby never met his father and knew nothing about him.
He was disconnected from his Māori heritage, was the victim of physical abuse and grew up in poverty. Ormsby left school at 13 without any qualifications.
“You did not want to struggle in the way you saw Māori around you struggle. This drew you away from whanaunga and te ao Māori,” said Justice van Bohemen.
“You saw your family as ‘poor and down and out’, whereas the [Mongrel] Mob was ‘hardcore’. So you joined.”
Two of Ormsby’s older brothers and cousin were already in the gang, all of whom went on to serve prison sentences.
Drugs and alcohol were a constant in his life, too.
His mother and stepfather were alcoholics and Ormsby said drinking was tied to his own criminal offending: “Most of it was drunk”.
He tried cannabis for the first time as a 10-year-old. By 16, Ormsby was smoking cannabis every day.
He stopped for some time but relapsed in his early thirties. It was his way of coping with day-to-day life and his anxiety.
Since his arrest in December 2020, Ormsby has completed anger management, literacy and numeracy courses and engaged with tikanga Māori.
Ormsby’s efforts to rehabilitate have been spurred on by his five children, according to his partner, who described him as an “amazing” father.
The sentence to be given to the 39-year-old had to strike the balance between Ormsby’s rehabilitation and the need to hold him accountable for serious offending, said Justice van Bohemen, which was driven by greed.
“Like many others in your circumstances, you suffered from fractured family relationships, child poverty and child abuse. You gravitated towards the Mob because that was where your siblings were, and it offered a sense of belonging and the prospects of power and success – and criminality,” said Justice van Bohemen.
“This current offending was also the direct consequence of choices that you made as an individual. Not every Māori male who suffered deprivation of the kind you experienced ended up in the Mongrel Mob, in a senior position and with the wit and power to position themselves to profit while others were exposed to greater risks.”
After giving discounts for Ormsby pleading guilty, his remorse and rehabilitation, as well as his difficult upbringing, Justice van Bohemen gave him a sentence of three years in prison.
He must serve half of the sentence before being eligible for parole.
Operation Gulfport was part of a series of police investigations by the Waikato organised crime squad, led by Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Ambler, which led to the arrests of Mongrel Mob Waikato members in 2020.
Another senior Mongrel Mob Waikato member is due to stand trial on serious methamphetamine charges in October, in an investigation linked to the prosecution of Ormsby.
Those charges are unrelated to the prosecution of three members of the Waikato Mongrel Mob, alleged to be involved in serious drug dealing and money laundering offences following Operation Equinox, the New Zealand offshoot of the global FBI investigation called Operation Trojan Shield.