Four charged and syndicate dismantled after further analysis of ‘ANOM’ data

Four people have been charged by Drug and Firearms Squad detectives investigating the distribution and supply of prohibited drugs throughout NSW.

In June 2021, detectives from the State Crime Command’s Drug and Firearms Squad established Strike Force Byarong to investigate the facilitation of prohibited drugs by users of the encrypted ‘ANOM’ application.

These inquiries followed the resolution of Operation Ironside, an Australian Federal Police (AFP), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police led investigation into large-scale drug importations, drug manufacture and violent criminal activity.

Following extensive investigations, police executed five search warrants in Banora Point, Bobin, Elermore Vale, Wickham, and Medowie from 6.30am on Wednesday (20 April 2022).

Detectives were assisted by officers from Tweed-Byron, Manning Great Lakes, Newcastle City and Port Stephens Police Districts, as well as specialist police and dog handlers from the Australian Border Force (ABF).

During subsequent searches, police seized a shot gun, ammunition, cannabis leaf, cash, numerous electronic devices including a Dedicated Encrypted Communication Device (DECD), documentation, and other items.

All seized items will undergo further forensic examination.

During the operation;

  • A 31-year-old man was arrested at a home in Bobin and taken to Taree Police Station, where he was charged with seven offences, including two counts of supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity, supply prohibited drug more than commercial quantity, cultivate prohibited plant more than commercial quantity, import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug, knowingly direct activities of criminal group, and knowingly deal with proceeds of crime. He was refused bail and appeared at Forster Local Court that day, where he was formally refused bail to appear at Taree Local Court on Wednesday 22 June 2022.
  • A 54-year-old man was arrested at an Elermore Vale address and taken to Newcastle Police Station, where he was charged with supply prohibited drug more than indictable amount, two counts of supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity. He was refused bail and appeared at Newcastle Local Court that day, where he was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court today (Friday 22 April 2022).
  • A 38-year-old man was arrested at a Wickham home and taken to Newcastle Police Station, where he was charged with two counts of supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity. He was refused bail and appeared at Newcastle Local Court that day, where he was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court on Thursday 16 June 2022.
  • A 51-year-old woman was arrested at Medowie property and taken to Raymond Terrace Police Station, where she was charged with two counts of supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity, possess ammunition without holding license or permit or authority, possess unauthorised firearm, possess prohibited drug, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity. She was refused bail and appeared at Raymond Terrace Local Court that day, where she was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court on Monday 20 June 2022.

It will be alleged all four were variously involved in the cultivation and supply of significant quantities of prohibited drugs between October 2019 and June 2021.

Drug and Firearms Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent John Watson, said the data left behind by criminals exposed during Operation Ironside continues to yield results for investigators.

“We will be alleging this syndicate was involved in the cultivation and supply of cannabis and other prohibited drugs including cocaine and MDMA on a large commercial scale,” Det Supt Watson said.

“These individuals were directly linked to high-ranking overseas members of the Comanchero OMCG and each played a role in carrying out the illicit activities of the syndicate at the expense of our community.

“Those who used the ANOM phones to facilitate serious organised crime should know that it is only a matter of time until you are prosecuted for your criminal endeavours,” Det Supt Watson said.

AFP Detective Superintendent Matthew Ciantar said it was pleasing that intelligence gained from Operation Ironside was still paying dividends almost a year after the operation was revealed publicly.

“These arrests should serve as a warning to anyone involved in serious organised crime, and it’s very rewarding to see our partners are still using the information to deliver positive outcomes for the communities we all live in,” Det Supt Ciantar said.

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