Two NSW men who got in over their heads when they agreed to act as couriers for a drug syndicate involving fallen Newcastle Knights star Jarrod Mullen have been jailed.
Brett Robert Pearce, 35, and Aaron Macey, 29, were sentenced on Friday in the Downing Centre District Court for their roles in the operation which stretched from Newcastle to Sydney before it was smashed by a police raids in 2018.
Pearce was jailed for a maximum of five years and three months, with a non-parole period of two years and seven months, making him eligible for release in July, 2021. Macey, from Sydney's eastern suburbs, was jailed for four years and six months and will be eligible for parole after two years and three months.
From November to December 2018, police surveillance caught Pearce on three occasions making cocaine deliveries totalling 680 grams on behalf of his brother, Matthew Shane Pearce, for which he was paid $2000 per trip.
Matthew Pearce has been described as the kingpin of the syndicate and will face a factual dispute hearing in June after pleading guilty to a raft of supply charges.
Judge Peter Whitford said Brett Pearce's offending was rooted in maintaining his drug habit and at all times was directed by his brother.
The court heard he had suffered long-term depression and anxiety and had self-medicated with cocaine and ice. At the height of his addiction, Pearce was using two grams of cocaine and half a gram of methamphetamine a day, as well as binge drinking.
"He is not by nature of a criminal or anti-social disposition ... and was weakened by addiction and other financial stresses," Judge Whitford said.
Pearce also pleaded guilty to supplying 100 litres of the industrial solvent butanediol, which can be used as an alternative to party drug GHB.
When police raided his Wangi Wangi home, they found a makeshift laboratory including glass beakers as well as 13.5 kilograms of butanediol.
Despite having no training as a chemist, he was employed by his brother to refine butanediol into GHB.
According to court documents, he was recorded in a telephone intercept asking his brother: "Hey bro, last question, about it. What is our end result supposed to be like?"
The court heard Macey acted as a courier for the syndicate after being introduced to Matthew Pearce through Les Mason - the brother of former NRL star Willie Mason - at a pub in Sydney's east in October 2018.
He had pleaded guilty to two charges, including supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, and was facing a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Macey was caught with 379g of cocaine and 100l of butanediol supplied by Pearce during a series of drug deals held at public places including a McDonald's and a Caltex service station.
Earlier this year, Les Mason was jailed for a maximum of six years, with a non-parole period of three years and three months, while Mullen was given a three-year community corrections order.