Man who held up Toowoomba hotel avoids jail time

A MAN who held up a Toowoomba hotel with a knife to feed his gambling addiction has avoided serving time in prison.

Jonty Aisea Vailahi was sentenced in Toowoomba District Court in June for an armed robbery he committed at the Gowrie Road Hotel in Newtown on August 7, 2019.

While inside the hotel about 3am Vailahi approached the duty manager to tell him the toilets were broken.

After they entered the toilet area, he produced a knife.

When Vailahi and the duty manager exited the toilets, they, along with the other employee working at the time, moved to the counter where Vailahi took $1280 from the register.

According to the statement of facts Vailahi, who was 24 at the time of the offence, was apologetic and appeared to be crying when he told staff members he needed the money.

After he left the hotel, he drove to The Star Casino Hotel on the Gold Coast.

Police executed a search warrant at Vailahi's home the following day after viewing CCTV footage, and he made full admissions to the crime.

At the time he told police he robbed the hotel because he needed the money for his gambling addiction.

On June 15, Vailahi pleaded guilty to one count each of entering premises to commit an indictable offence and armed robbery.

At sentencing, Judge Nathan Jarro said the duty manager had spoken of multiple panic attacks following the incident, and both staff members had to undergo counselling.

Since the offending, Vailahi had sought counselling to address his gambling addiction, and, according to a report prepared by a forensic psychologist, had made progress towards understanding his addictions and behaviours.

"In (the forensic psychologist's) view, given your lack of previous offending and the absence of common criminogenic factors such as substance abuse, anti-social peers, anti-social attitudes and lack of respect for authority, you present as a likely candidate for community-based supervision to guide, mentor and support you going forward," Judge Jarro said.

For the armed robbery, Judge Jarro gave Vailahi a three-year suspended prison term, which will hang over his head for four years.

He was sentenced to three years' probation for the enter premises charge.

Vailahi was also ordered to pay $1280 to the owner of the Gowrie Road Hotel.

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