Grocer turns to drugs, crime after flood devastation
A BURGLAR who stripped homes under construction blamed the loss of his business in the 2011 floods as the catalyst for his downward spiral.
On Thursday, Ipswich Magistrate Elizabeth Hall spared Chi Cuong Pham jail time, saying he needed to look after his wife and children and sort out his drug problems.
“Your wife has probably suffered enough from your behaviour,” Ms Hall told the visibly relieved dad of three.
Pham, 39, from Goodna, pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to more than 30 charges including entering premises at Heathwood to steal on January 12; enter dwelling to steal at Annerley on March 19; two counts of unlawful possession of a motor vehicle; attempted unlawful use of a motor vehicle; nine counts of possession of dangerous drugs; two counts of possessing restricted drugs; not having authority to possess explosives (ammunition); unlawful possession of weapons; possession of drug utensils; possession of property for the purpose of a drug offence; drug driving; receiving tainted property; and breach of bail.
Prosecutor Sergeant Rose Molinaro said Pham targeted properties that were unoccupied and vulnerable.
She said one of the victims arrived at a Heathwood property to see a ute parked on the front lawn, his water tank disconnected and rolled over, and all the front doors removed.
The kitchen cupboards and other items had been dismantled.
Four men ran away from the scene.
In another of the crimes, Pham targeted a house under renovation at Annerley.
Sgt Molinaro said a hole had been cut through the floor to gain entry and goods valued at $14,500 were stolen.
An attempt had been made to steal a motor vehicle which was found with the doors and bonnet open.
Pham was linked to the scene by DNA.
Police later found Pham in possession of a 308 semiautomatic rifle and 40 rounds of ammunition.
Pham’s lawyer Ms Taylor said her client had been the victim of a serious assault recently, with his injuries requiring the insertion of titanium plates and screws.
She said the Malaysian-born dad was educated at Redbank Plains High School and had his own grocery store in Goodna for 12 years leading up to the 2011 floods.
“He lost everything, including the family home. He estimates it as being $1.3 million and he had no insurance,” Ms Taylor said.
“There was financial and emotional hardship and he turned to methylamphetamine.
“He instructs he was smoking heroin at aged 12 when living in Melbourne. And injecting it at 13.”
She said Pham was later able to abstain from drug use when working but relapsed “due to the devastating effect of the floods on his business and family”.
She said Pham had been clean for more than two months.
In sentencing, Ms Hall said the offences were of a serious nature.
“Your behaviour has put a great burden on your wife, family,” she said.
Ms Hall sentenced Pham to an 18-month jail term for burglary, six months’ jail for unlawful possession of motor vehicles, and nine months’ jail for unlawful possession of a weapon.
She granted Pham immediate parole.