Three men have been sentenced for their part in the theft of more than $100,000 worth of tobacco from a Wellington factory.
Sui Mano, Mika Lemoe and Michael Ellis were sentenced to community detention, community service and ordered to pay reparations at the Hutt Valley District Court on Friday.
The employees were stealing kilograms of tobacco and cigarettes every week, stuffed into black bags and stashed inside hollowed-out loaves of bread, and then selling the stolen goods through social media with significant price cuts.
Sui Mano was sentenced to community detention for 4 months, 150 hours of community work and ordered to pay $10,000 in reparations.
Michael Ellis, a security guard during the smuggling, was sentenced to community detention for 4 months, 200 hours of community work and was ordered to pay $10,000 in reparations.
Michael Ellis was a security guard at Imperial Tobacco (Newshub)
Mika Lemoe, who stole 8kg of tobacco products each week for 3 months, was sentenced to 4 months community detention, 100 hours community work and ordered to pay $8210 in reparations.
Co-offender Terrence Whitcombe, who played a lesser role in the crime, was given community work.
Police arrested ten employees, including security guards, from Imperial Tobacco's factory in Petone back in August for their part in the smuggling operation.
The company had been independently investigating the thefts for several weeks before contacting police.
Sui Mano was an Imperial Tobacco employee (Newshub)
The officer in charge of the investigation, detective Tim Leitch, said tobacco theft has become a serious matter for police and "there is quite a major market for stolen tobacco".
"It's an attractive item, it's an expensive item to purchase and people will take advantage if they can get it at a cheaper rate."