Former NZ Idol winner Matthew Saunoa.
Former NZ Idol winner Matthew Saunoa.

Drug addicted NZ Idol winner 'threw talent away'

AFTER gambling in the Gold Coast Star Casino, disgraced New Zealand Idol winner Matthew Saunoa stole a car from the carpark.

It was one of nearly 30 offences blamed on his use of drugs that has resulted in the Gold Coast singer receiving a 13-month jail sentence.

Matthew John Saunoa, 35, from Surfers Paradise, went before Ipswich Magistrates Court this week and pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful use of stolen cars; six counts of stealing; three counts of stealing after previous convictions; two counts of fraud; entering premises with intent to steal; driving when unlicensed; possession of dangerous drugs and drug utensils; failing to safely dispose of syringe; possession of tainted property; two counts of contravening a probation order; and failing to appear at court.

Police prosecutor Jack Scott said the offences took place on the Gold Coast, with the four charges of unlawful use of stolen motor vehicles committed at Burleigh Heads on February 22, Broadbeach on December 7 last year, Main Beach in October, and in Parkwood between December 22 and January 18.


New Zealand Idol winner in 2006, Matthew John Saunoa, has been jailed.
New Zealand Idol winner in 2006, Matthew John Saunoa, has been jailed.


In another incident, Saunoa simply walked out of a store with two iPhones valued at $500.

At 5am on December 7 in the Casino carpark Saunoa got into an unlocked Hyundai Tucson and drove away.

Other car stealing charges involved him having possession of a stolen silver Great Wall that he also loaned to a mate, and driving a stolen Mitsubishi Pajero Sport stolen from Burleigh Heads.

He committed fuel drive-offs stealing petrol valued at $118 and $89.

Saunoa also stole a $1479 Makita drill set from Bunnings in Oxenford, and a range of other items with a combined value in the thousands of dollars.

In one theft Saunoa hooked up a stolen Mitusbishi to a tradie's box trailer and drove away. The trailer held $5000 worth of tools and a generator along with $20,000 worth of stock.

The fate of the goods was not disclosed in court.

On October 3 last year, police were called to a crime scene at Main Beach, where the owner of a stolen car had been thrown from the open boot, which he had been tending to when it was suddenly reversed by a thief who had snuck inside.

Saunoa, who was with the offender but in the passenger seat, fell out the door and onto the road when it was being reversed. He ran off but was quickly caught.

Mr Scott said the charges were a significant escalation in his criminal behavior and occurring not long after his last sentence.

"It indicates an unwillingness or an inability on his behalf to rehabilitate," Mr Scott said.

Police sought restitution of $2968.

In a phone-link with the court, his defence lawyer said Saunoa was in a drug addicted state at the time of his crimes.

He sought a jail term of no longer than 12-months with release at one-third, saying Saunoa is a father of two who grew up in Auckland.

"He is a singer and won the New Zealand Idol competition in 2006," the lawyer Mr Phillips said.

"It led to contracts, and fortune to an extent.

"Performed on reality TV shows and moved to the Gold Coast to perform with a band."

Mr Phillips said when Saunoa visited family in New Zealand they were not willing to let him into the home.

"He realises he has lost everything through his drug addiction. He feels very shameful of his actions and remorseful for his children," Mr Phillips said.

"He's placed himself in this difficulty and prison is really the only option in punishment for him today."

Magistrate Kurt Fowler said Saunoa's criminal history in Australia was alarming.

"You are a man who possesses some skills in life and been blessed with the opportunity and skill to entertain others," Mr Fowler said.

"It is disappointing sir, that a person with such a gift with opportunities that others long for, you have squandered that ability."

Mr Fowler said he hopes Saunoa will eventually accept that he needs to do rehabilitation.

He noted Saunoa had already spent 90 days in jail since March 6.

Saunoa was sentenced to 12 months jail for the enter premises to steal offence, with concurrent jail terms of 10 months for the car stealing charges. He received an additional one month jail for failing to appear at court.

He will receive parole on July 3 with the likely prospect of deportation.

Read more stories from court reporter Ross Irby.