TWO brothers – one accused of importing and supplying hundreds of litres of a dangerous drug and the other of manufacturing it – a Qantas engineer, a Sydney man and Leslie Mason, the older brother of former Newcastle Knight Willie Mason, have been charged over a massive Hunter drug syndicate accused of supplying large quantities of cocaine and the potentially deadly industrial solvent Butanediol, an alternative to party drug GHB.
The alleged head of the syndicate Matthew Shane Pearce, 35, of Cameron Park, his brother, Brett Robert Pearce, 33, of Wangi Wangi, Leslie Charles Mason, 40, of Mayfield, engineer Jay Edward Ramsden, 28, of Kingsford, and Aaron Macey, 28, of Rose Bay, all appeared in court on Friday charged with a raft of drug supply offences.
Only Mr Ramsden, described as a low-level “runner” by solicitor Chris O’Brien, was granted conditional bail after agreeing to post a $10,000 surety.
The remainder of the men did not apply for release and they will remain behind bars until they appear in court next year.
Newcastle City and Lake Macquarie detectives formed Strike Force Castlestead in August to investigate the activities of Matthew Pearce, who police allege was importing or planning to import large quantities of Butanediol, MDMA, cocaine, Xanax and pseudoephedrine, according to a statement of police facts tendered during the bail application for Mr Ramsden.
Matthew Pearce, represented by solicitor John Anthony in Newcastle Local Court on Friday, is accused of running the majority of his importation business online from his home at Cameron Park and allegedly used ten separate post office boxes to receive packages of prohibited drugs that he would then on-supply.
He has been charged with three counts of supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug relating to a total of 150 litres of Butanediol, which was allegedly supplied at Cameron Park, Ourimbah and St Ives between September and November this year.
He is also accused of supplying a total of 600 grams of cocaine during deals at Cameron Park and Mooney Mooney, according to court documents.
While his brother Brett Pearce, represented by solicitor James Janke in Newcastle Local Court on Friday, was allegedly involved in the refining and attempted manufacture of Butanediol, or Bute, into Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a popular and potentially deadly party drug known as liquid fantasy or liquid ecstasy, at his home at Wangi Wangi.
A controlled substance, Butanediol, is legitimately used as a cleaning agent but when it is ingested by users their livers turn the Bute into GHB.
But as the process is slower, users often take a second or third dose - resulting in a massive number of overdoses.
Detectives also allege that Brett Pearce was working as a drug courier for his brother, earning $2000 for every trip he made to Sydney.
He is accused of supplying large quantities of cocaine and Butanediol, participating in a criminal group and knowingly deal with the proceeds of crime to a total of $86,000.
Mr Mason, a former boxer, was arrested at his Mayfield home on Thursday and charged with supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.
According to court documents, Mr Mason, who was represented by solicitor Mark Hanlon in Newcastle Local Court on Friday, is accused of supplying 50 litres of Butanediol “for the purpose of human consumption” at Cameron Park between 1.50pm and 3.05pm on October 10.
He is also accused of knowingly participating in a criminal group with the Pearce brothers and Mr Macey. Mr Macey, a Sydney man, did not appear in Central Local Court on Friday or apply for bail.
He has been charged with two counts of supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug and one count of supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.
Police allege Mr Macey and Matthew Pearce were involved in a collaboration to import and supply a large quantity of Butanediol, which they would allegedly then on-sell as GHB.
Meanwhile, Mr Ramsden is accused of supplying nearly 400 grams of cocaine at Morisset on Thursday.
Police had been monitoring conversations between Matthew Pearce and Mr Macey as they allegedly negotiated the supply and purchase of 14 ounces, or about 395 grams, of cocaine.
Matthew Pearce allegedly arranged for his brother Brett to deliver the cocaine and Macey organised for Mr Ramsden to attend on his end to purchase the drugs.
Police were watching and arrested both Mr Ramsden and Brett Pearce during the alleged drug transaction, according to a statement of police facts.
Detectives seized both the 14 ounces of cocaine and $16,000 in cash.
Those arrests triggered raids across the Hunter and Sydney as police searched homes at Cameron Park, Mayfield, Wangi Wangi, and Rose Bay and allegedly seized large quantities of cocaine, GHB and cash.
At Brett Pearce’s home in Watkins Road, Wangi Wangi, police allegedly uncovered and then dismantled a clandestine drug laboratory.
Handcuffed and with his head down, Mr Ramsden appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Friday to apply for bail.
His solicitor, Mr O’Brien, told magistrate Michael Morahan that Mr Ramsden was a Qantas engineer, had no criminal record and had only become a participant in any alleged drug activity two days before his arrest.
“This man, unlike the other three principals that were before the court today, is engaged only as a runner,” Mr O’Brien said.
“He provides an admission to his involvement as a runner as a favour for someone thinking it was something different.
“He thinks he is buying three ounces of cocaine, which wouldn’t put it into the commercial quantity category.
“The prosecution charged him with commercial quantity, but arguably this man would be in a different category, being an indictable quantity.”
Mr Morahan said he was inclined to grant Mr Ramsden strict conditional bail provided he report to police daily, not associate with any of his co-accuseds, not enter any international airport and that someone post a $10,000 surety.
Mr Ramsden’s job at Qantas was a brief sticking point, his work would take him within the vicinity of an international point of departure, a risk when considering if someone is going to flee the jurisdiction.
But Mr Morahan said as long as he didn’t enter the airport, he would not be in breach of his bail.
The Pearce brothers, Mr Mason and Mr Ramsden all had their matters adjourned to February 19 at Toronto Local Court.
Mr Macey will apply for bail in Central Local Court on January 7.
This man, unlike the other three principals that were before the court today, is engaged only as a runner.- Solicitor Chris O'Brien said of Jay Ramsden's alleged involvement in the syndicate.
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