A man who went on a robbery spree in the South Islands became addicted to methamphetamine while caring for his ailing wife, a court heard on Friday.
Paul Thomas Chulo (42) appeared before Judge Russell Walker at Invercargill District Court on Friday for sentencing on 13 counts of theft, three counts of obtaining and cultivating cannabis, possessing a firearm and possession of ammunition.
The offenses took place between December last year and May this year at rural properties in Christchurch, Invercargill, Southland, Dunedin and Te Anau.
In total, Sooalo stole more than $250,000 in items, including motor vehicles, jet skis, a boat, guns, tools, trailers, televisions and jewelry.
In his submissions, Chulo’s lawyer Bill Dawkins said his client’s theft “spree” was fueled by his addiction to methamphetamine and the need to fund that addiction.
Another group was behind him, issuing orders for robberies and never repaying the compensation Solo demanded.
As for his cannabis development, Mr Dawkins said the whole process was a bit “messy”.
He said his client should be given full credit for the guilty pleas because Suolo’s previous attorney, whom he did not name, entered criminal charges on his behalf without ever meeting him and before receiving full disclosure.
“This is not satisfactory to this defendant.”
Judge Walker said the robberies were premeditated. Chulo looked up addresses to see when people would come and go from their homes.
A stolen robotic lawnmower, equipped with GPS, was tracked back to Chulo’s home.
When the police searched the property on May 5, they found several items including license plates of stolen vehicles, keys and notes belonging to the looted property. They found a gun and ammunition in his bedroom, and marijuana growing in his shed and garage.
Judge Walker said Chulo’s wife suffered a terrible medical event four years ago that left her with 24-hour, seven-day-a-week financial support for just two hours a day.
Before his arrest, Chulo was responsible for his wife’s day-to-day care.
That’s when he started using methamphetamine to stay awake longer, and he became a daily user. His addiction quickly spiraled out of control, Judge Walker said.
“It’s inevitable that you’ll need more and more methamphetamine.
“I consider this to be one of the main factors underlying your guilt.”
Judge Walker asked Chulo if he had anything to say during Friday’s sentencing.
Sooalo apologized to one victim back in court, and to several family members who attended his sentencing and to his other victims who weren’t there, saying he didn’t really know what he was doing at the time.
“Things have gotten to me.
“The decisions I made, I can see now, were very bad. It turned me into someone I never thought I would be. I’m sorry.”
A testimonial letter written by Sooalo’s mother said her son had gone from being a wonderful son, husband and father to “falling into an abyss of drug addiction”, Judge Walker said.
“If anyone doubts the true damage it does to society, they need only look at your case, your addiction left a path of hurt and destruction for your victims.”
Judge Walker sentenced him to three years and 10 months in prison.