Woman worked for 'biggest drug shifter in town'
A WOMAN with no criminal history has been jailed for six and a half years with parole eligibility in two years due to her role in Central Queensland's largest drug syndicate.
Rebecca Michelle Cooke, 38, was handed the sentence yesterday by Justice Graeme Crow after she accepted packages for more than 10 months for a self-boasting "biggest (drug) shifter in town".
Cooke pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking drugs and one of possessing a drug utensil.
The court heard police targeted Gregory Leo Lowien, who told an undercover cop he was the "biggest shifter in town" and made $150,000-$200,000 profit a month which he then fed into two legitimate businesses.
Police identified other drug syndicate members through intercepting two of Lowien's phones and discovered the syndicate trafficked in methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy in pill form between April 31, 2016 and March 21, 2017. They sourced up to 17kg of meth and 12kg of marijuana.
Justice Crow said Cooke was at the bottom of the syndicate who accepted delivery of drugs.
Brenden Michael Manitzky was the principle courier, transporting drugs and cash from Sydney and sometimes Melbourne back to Rockhampton.
"This syndicate was a most serious syndicate in the provision of these terrible drugs to our community," Justice Crow said.
"In order to courier this amount of drugs from Sydney to Rockhampton, a vehicle was purchased, it was customised, it included a secret compartment in the dashboard that could only be opened by turning back the windscreen heat demisters and popping a custom button under the driver's side dashboard.
"The syndicate supplied about a kilogram of methamphetamines a month for $112,000.
"Throughout the trafficking period the syndicate sourced 150g quantities of cocaine for somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000, but could source up to a kilo of cocaine for $26,000 if given three days' notice."
It is estimated Lowien made a profit of $2.2million during the trafficking period.
Lowien told an undercover police officer he sold drugs to after meeting him at the police station that he "can get as much drugs as you want".
Cocaine was shipped to syndicate members, including Cooke, from China and Cambodia.
Defence barrister Maree Willey said Cooke first tried methamphetamines when she travelled to Brisbane for a weekend with friends in December 2012.
She went from using on her days off working at the mines to daily use.
Three and half years after her first meth use, Cooke quit her job at Drakes IGA "to pursue other employment opportunities" which turned out to be as a 'storeman' for Lowien.
Ms Willey said Cooke met Lowien through a former partner and he 'hired' her to work in his pet food business where she worked six days a week for no cash, but for drugs.
She said Lowien and co-accused Brendan Arthur Lynch later offered Cooke an opportunity to earn $500 by receiving packages and taking them to Lowien or Lynch when requested.
Ms Willey said Cooke received three parcels between May and June 2016 and was only paid $700.
After that, Lowien approached her about moving out of her parents' house, which she could not afford to do, so he offered to pay her rent and utilities to move out.
While in the rental between December 2016 and March 2017, she received six parcels - two which were intercepted by Australian Border Control and the cocaine inside was switched to icing sugar.
The two intercepted parcels were then delivered by an undercover police officer and once Cooke had received them, police executed a search warrant on her residence on March 21, 2017.
Cooke told police she had stored up to a kilogram of meth and of marijuana at what was referred to as "the safe house" by the criminal organisation.
Since her arrest, Cooke has completed a 23-week drug rehabilitation program through the Salvation Army and volunteered three days a week in the organisation's kitchen.
She was also treated by a psychologist and looked after her sick parents.
Cooke, who was supported in court by friends and family, will eligible for parole on February 3, 2021.