Crime boss offered teens ‘hotels and girls’
A YOUNG man has been jailed for organising three armed heists across Melbourne, promising the teenage robbers "hotels and girls" as a reward.
Mahmoud Taha, 21, masterminded the armed hold-up of a courier and directed youths to rob two jewellery stores with hammers in 2016.
County Court of Victoria sentencing judge Wendy Wilmoth on Monday noted Taha had previously been linked to the infamous Apex street gang but added there was no evidence to suggest a connection.
In March 2016 when he was 19, Taha - then a cocaine and ice addict - began driving a stolen Mercedes Benz with false numberplates.
On May 2 the same year, Taha organised the robbery of a courier at Broadmeadows shopping centre, with one of the young men pointing a silver pistol in the victim's face and demanding he drop his backpack.
The youths fled in Taha's stolen Mercedes with the backpack, containing $236,000.
"With the cash, you bought cocaine and designer shoes and clothing," Judge Wilmoth said.Police later searched Taha's home, but he denied any involvement and wiped his phone.
Police then tapped his phone and were able to intercept conversations of him organising the jewellery store robberies.
On July 7, Taha organised a group of teenagers to break into two jewellery shops - Citizen Victorian Watch Repair in Melbourne's CBD and Farah Jewellery at Coburg - with hammers.
He promised them "hotels and girls" as a reward after they committed the robberies.
The groups caused $75,000-worth of damage and stock loss at the city store, and $128,700 at the Coburg shop.
Members of the public held the doors closed at the Coburg store in an attempt to keep the offenders inside.
Although two of the youths smashed their way out through the front doors with hammers, the other two thieves were held down and captured with their bags full of gold jewellery.
Meanwhile, Taha was conducting internet searches for gold buyers in Melbourne. He was arrested on July 27 and denied any involvement in the robberies but later pleaded guilty to the crimes.
"You left a trail of destruction," Judge Wilmoth told Taha. "No one was harmed but the emotional impact has been severe.
"For such a young man, you already have quite a significant criminal history."
Taha was sentenced to five years and nine months' jail with a non-parole period of three years.
He has already served 465 days in pre-sentence detention.