A baby-faced IT whiz who masterminded a $17million drug ring on the dark web has admitted his role in the elaborate syndicate.
Cody Ronald Ward, 26, pleaded guilty to a string of drugs charges when he appeared in Nowra Local Court on the New South Wales South Coast on Tuesday.
Sisters Shanese and Patricia Koullias also admitted their roles in what police described as a ‘sophisticated online drug distribution network’ that involved more than 10,000 transactions on the dark web.
Ward ran the syndicate from his seaside home and employed the two sisters to pack and send drugs across the country through Australia Post.
Detectives described the syndicate, busted in February 2019, as possibly the largest ever on the dark web in Australia.
In a draft amended facts tendered the court on Tuesday, police outlined the detailed investigation into the syndicate where Ward used multiple names and post office boxes across the NSW South Coast region.
Ward used the ‘NSWGreat’ moniker on dark web marketplaces and conducted 10,500 successful transactions between December 2015 and January 2019, the South Coast News reported.
A nine-month police surveillance operation captured Ward and the sisters dropping off packages of drugs in postal boxes across Nowra and South Nowra.
Ward collected imported drugs mailed to post office boxes under a series of other names, including William Taylor, Ryan Print, Jackson Abbey, Oliver White and George Smith in Ulladulla, Warilla, Albion Park, Windang and Figtree.
Shanese Koullias would store and package orders at a Callala Bay home and deliver orders through the post.
Ward would sign off with a signature that resembled letters ‘L’ and ‘T’ while the sisters used signatures with the letters ‘A’ and ‘N’, documents stated.
Ward pleaded guilty to three counts of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and three counts of supplying a prohibited drug greater than a commercial quantity.
He also pleaded guilty to importing and supply of large quantities of MDMA, amphetamine and LSD.
Seven charges were withdrawn by the prosecution and eight offences will be proceed to the district court for sentencing.
Shanese Koullias, 24, pleaded guilty to three counts of supplying a prohibited drug greater than a large commercial quantity.
Her sister Patricia Koullias, 22, pleaded guilty to three counts of supplying a prohibited drug greater than an indictable amount and participating in a criminal group contributing to criminal activity.
In an electronic interview, Patricia Koullias said she would work in the syndicate one to two days a week, where she was paid about $100 per hour to package LSD tabs and $100 to drop off parcels.
All three cases were adjourned for mention at Nowra District Court on August 10.
Before his arrest in February 2019, Ward posted photos of his new Maserati and fancy international trips to Instagram, while also promoting himself as the CEO of a cyber security firm.
Ward and the sisters were arrested in February 2019 after a nine-month investigation by police led them to five properties where they uncovered several kilograms of illicit drugs – including cocaine and MDMA – drug packaging material and $100,000 cash.
Police found a combined total of $100,000 at the five raids – four homes in Callala Beach and Callala Bay and one in Quakers Hill in Sydney’s west.
During the raids at Callala Bay, Callala Beach and Quakers Hill, officers found 764.22 grams of amphetamine powder, 529g of MDMA, 85.5g dibutylone powder, 259g diazepam, 1.38g morphine and 5.67g of cocaine.
They also seized more than 100,000 LSD tabs, 323 oxycodone tablets and cannabis.
Sophisticated computer equipment, money counters, and several vehicles including a Lexus, a Mercedes-Benz, a Ford Falcon and a Maserati were also seized.
Further search warrants seized $62,796 in Australian foreign currencies and a number of NSW and Victorian driver’s licenses at a Callala Beach home.
NSW state crime acting assistant commissioner Stuart Smith said at the time the bust was a sign to other drug dealers.
‘We’re putting would-be drug pushers on notice,’ Asst Comm Smith said.
‘You can no longer try to hide the peddling of poisons on the dark web.
‘The co-ordinated investigative efforts by local and specialist investigators show that there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, even online.
‘While we will continue to target the drug trade at every level of the supply chain, we remind the community that the demand of these prohibited substances needs to be addressed.’