NATIONAL NEWS: THE NSW man behind a dark web drug business worth $17 million was sentenced to 14 years' jail on Friday.
Cody Ronald Ward was 25 when he was arrested on Valentines Day 2019; he had operated an online drug importation and supply business for about eight years.
In Nowra Local Court on August 4, 2019 Ward pleaded guilty to three counts of importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs, two counts of importing a marketable quantity of border-controlled drugs and a number of supplying prohibited drug charges.
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Ward's fist cupped his chin with his index finger curled over his mouth as he received his sentence.
After a protracted sentence hearing Judge Robyn Tupman sentenced him to 11 years' imprisonment, backdated to his arrest in 2019, with a non-parole period of six years for three of the charges, and an overall term of 10 years from 2023 with a non-parole period of six years for two other charges. He is eligible for parole from February 14, 2029.
"Fortunately, at least from my perspective at the moment, it's over," Judge Tupman said. "It's a sad reality of the sentence he faces that by the time he is released his father may have succumbed to an ongoing illness.
"Sentences for importation offences of this type must give significant general deterrence, however. Drugs wreak havoc on the Australian community in many ways, and detection is difficult and costly."
Judge Tupman said she accepted evidence that Ward's offending was motivated by a desire to make friends after he was bullied as a child.
She also accepted his immersion in online gaming and the dark web, as well as acceptance by fellow illicit drug users in the real world, motivated his behaviour.
She said the drug business was comparatively small but sophisticated.
"He was not importing large quantities to on-sell for distribution," she said.
"He completed more that 10,500 successful transactions [on one platform], and in 2018 did an interview with a journalist which reported him as the most successful and longest-running dark web vendor in Australia."
Ward purchased drugs on the dark web, which were posted to PO boxes he had set up under false names.
The PO boxes were spread across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, including at Figtree, Balgownie and Warilla.
The drugs would then be taken to a property in Callala Bay where Ward's co-accused, Shanese Koullias, would repackage and post them to buyers. She occasionally employed her sister Patricia Koullias to assist her.
Shanese was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment, five years non parole from February 2019; Patricia received three years' jail, and has been released on parole.