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Mushrooms not so magic for Nelson retiree

21 February 2013

Mushrooms not so magic for Nelson retiree

People importing drugs for personal use have been put on notice following the sentencing of a Nelson retiree who received cannabis and magic mushrooms from a friend through the mail.

Michael Bortnick, 65, was sentenced to 200 hours of community service earlier this week for importing cannabis and the class A drug psilocine, known as magic mushrooms.

Customs officers at Auckland’s International Mail Centre seized a package in May last year addressed to a fake name at his Nelson address. The package contained 30 grams of cannabis and 13 grams of mushrooms hidden inside plastic tubes. The package had been declared as a book cover. Tests confirmed the mushrooms were psilocine.

A search warrant was carried out at his home where Customs officers also found drug paraphernalia and a small amount of cannabis and cannabis seeds.

Customs Manager Investigations, Mark Day, says the quantity seized was relatively small, but importing any amount of drugs is a serious offence.

“All incoming mail is screened by Customs using a number of processes and offenders will be caught and prosecuted.”

During sentencing Judge Miller said the offender had used a false name but his home address, evidently believing that if the package was intercepted it would be destroyed because the amounts were small.

Bortnick admitted that he had asked a friend from the United States to send the magic mushrooms and that the drugs were intended for his own personal use.

He has no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the first reasonable opportunity.

The New Zealand Customs Service is the government organisation that protects the community from potential risks arising from international trade and travel, while facilitating the legitimate movement of people and goods across the border. Established in 1840, it is New Zealand’s oldest government agency.

As New Zealand's gatekeepers our role includes intercepting contraband (such as illegal drugs); checking travellers and their baggage cargo and mail; protecting businesses against illegal trade; and assessing and collecting Customs duties, excise, and goods and services tax on imports. We use intelligence and risk assessment to target physical checks of containers, vessels or travellers. As a law enforcement agency we conduct investigations and audits, and prosecute offenders.

Customs works closely with other border agencies, in particular the NZ Police, Aviation Security, Environmental Science & Research and Immigration New Zealand.

More information about Customs can be found on our website: www.customs.govt.nz

ENDS

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