Blaming his brother for helping commit at least six shop and home burglaries has allowed one member of the T-shirt bandits to walk out of custody.
Tom McLean, 22, was set to face trial in the County Court on more than 80 offences – all with his identity concealed with a T-shirt over his face.
His legal team negotiated down to 14 charges, including burglaries at Tallangatta Hotel, Rutherglen Newsagency, Rutherglen Shell service station, Watts In Bundalong Cafe and Chiltern’s Telegraph Hotel between March and October 2015.
McLean was brought to tears in Wodonga Magistrates’ Court on Monday when he learned he would be released after more than 10 months in jail.
He was sentenced to time served on remand, plus a 15-month corrections order including 150 hours of unpaid work or rehabilitation programs.
The young man was also ordered to pay $5900 in compensation to his victims.
The “joint criminal enterprise” had been a family affair for the McLeans, allegedly led by Tom’s older brother Jack.
Jack will contest charges at trial, but Tom’s barrister Peta Smith said police had a strong case against him.
She claimed proof of Tom’s involvement was weaker, based on circumstantial evidence of T-shirts – seen in security footage of two burglaries – being found at his Wodonga home.
Police also found his fingerprints on a bowl with remnants of cannabis, which was left in a Mitsubishi Magna abandoned in Old Tallangatta after a burglary.
Another stolen car was set alight in Willow Park.
Prosecuting barrister Danielle Guesdon argued McLean should spend more time in jail, saying the theft of guns was most concerning.
He pleaded guilty to stealing three .22-calibre firearms from a Cole Court home in Wodonga with the gang.
Police found one of the guns hidden under wood at the McLean family’s Tallangatta Valley property, with a note saying “please don’t burn this wood pile”.
The others had not been recovered.
“The time spent in custody so far would not be sufficient to reflect the gravity of offending,” Ms Guesdon said.
But magistrate Stella Stuthridge said McLean’s first time in custody, including six months in 22-hour-a-day isolation, had caused hardship.
“It’s tragic that you became involved in this because of your siblings and others, and ultimately your drug addiction,” she said.