Former professional league player Keanu Dawson convicted of possession of methamphetamine for supply

A former New Zealand professional rugby league player has been sentenced to 12 months home detention for his role in a botched transfer of a commercial quantity of methamphetamine from Auckland to a person in Taupō.

The offense by the former Gold Coast Titans, Reserve Warriors and Newcastle Knights player was revealed as part of Operation Nest Egg, a police investigation focusing on the actions of an organized criminal group, primarily involving members of the gang. Mongols.

Keanu Dawson, 27, was one of six defendants who were sentenced yesterday in connection with methamphetamine and firearms convictions. He was sentenced on one count of possession of methamphetamine for supply.

Dawson’s lawyer, David Stevens, said his client described the crime as “the stupidest thing he has ever done” and how he had done it to make “quick money” in 2020 during Covid when he couldn’t work.

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Dawson was discovered when a covert recording device placed in a Toyota Corolla captured him and fellow accused Spencer Hepi’s trip to Taupō on April 30, 2020 to transfer methamphetamine.

According to the summary of facts, Dawson told Hepi during the trip that he would not have money for Hepi until Sunday, or sooner if he arrived, and that he had to pay him with money he received from another criminal.

“You’re not really risking anything because you’re not ending anything, you’re really just coming for a ride. You don’t have to go out and grab anything, you’re just there to keep yourself company. So if they pull us over, you’ll be nice,” Dawson said in the vehicle, adding that he would take the blame.

Hepi was also sentenced Thursday.

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The couple stopped in Tokoroa for the night before continuing towards Taupō, arriving on the outskirts of the city at around 7.30am the next day.

While detained, Dawson and Hepi attempted to contact another man, who Dawson confirmed was coming from the south.

The summary of events said that about 13 minutes later they returned to the car and protested that the meeting had been canceled, saying it was “unprofessional.”

The next day, Dawson asked Hepi to keep the drugs in a safe place and said he would pick them up in the afternoon when he could find another place to take them.

“These motherfuckers are fucking up bro, I’m getting fucked up for having to hold this shit,” Dawson said.

It’s unclear what happened to the methamphetamine afterward.

Keanu Dawson, seen during a haka, has been sentenced to 12 months house arrest for his role in a botched drug transfer.  Photo / Brett Phibbs
Keanu Dawson, seen during a haka, has been sentenced to 12 months house arrest for his role in a botched drug transfer. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Stevens told the court that Dawson was an “exceptional” young man who had achieved much in sports.

He talked about Dawson’s active role with his three children who live with his ex-partner, and how he brings them between $200 and $250 a week.

Stevens referred to Dawson’s work at a rugby league club where he works as a coach and does youth activities.

He asked that his client receive a 10 percent discount on the sentence for the impact incarceration would have on his children, 15 percent for his youth and prospects for rehabilitation, 15 percent for his contributions to the community, his teenage experiences and his remorse, and 20 percent per cent for his guilty plea.

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Auckland District Court Judge Pippa Sinclair said Dawson’s role in the crime did not fit neatly into a minor or significant role category.

She said she believed he was motivated by some financial gain and set a sentence of six years in prison.

From there, it granted him a 45 percent discount, taking into account his impeccable track record, his youth, his involvement in the community, his lifestyle choices and the impact it would have on his children. Sinclair gave him an additional 20 percent discount for her guilty plea.

He said this brought Dawson’s sentence below the 24-month threshold that allows judges to consider home detention.

In the end, Sinclair sentenced him to 12 months home detention with a 120-hour community work order and six months of post-arrest conditions.

Katie Harris is an Auckland-based journalist covering social issues including sexual assault, workplace misconduct, crime and justice. She joined the Herald in 2020.

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