On the wall adorning the home of drug dealer Kiwi Steen MacBeth in Melbourne, was a hand-painted portrait of a Colombian drug lord in a cloud of white powder.
The painting entitled “Narcos” after the popular American crime drama, was commissioned in a television series with the actor who played Pablo Escobar – the notorious leader of a cartel billionaire called the King of Cocaine.
Nearly two-meter-high works of art are now stored at the Australian Federal Police after detectives descended into former home of Maranda’s former Taranaki resident Macbeth during a major international drug investigation involving the FBI.
On Wednesday, the 29-year-old was imprisoned for seven years, and he must serve a term of at least four years before he can receive parole.
MacBeth and his accomplice and elementary school friend Jackson Lee, 28, were part of a syndicate that used bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies to import drugs through a dark network. Lee was also imprisoned.
The drugs were mailed to Australian customers who also paid with bitcoins.
Court documents published by The Age show that MacBeth and Lee, New Zealand citizens, watched AFP for several months after Australia Post sounded the alarm.
When in October 2017, detectives finally went down to Macbeth’s house on Dalzil Drive and the nearby “shelter,” they discovered a cache of drugs and supplies.
A 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo was parked next to Macbeth’s house, which was allegedly paid in bitcoins. Inside, there were over $ 50,000 in cash, a counting machine, and bags with clips.
Between February 6, 2017 and October 9, 2017, you were both members of a crime syndicate that imported and transported border-controlled drugs through a dark network, said District Court judge Michael Cahill, sentencing Macbeth and Lee to Wednesday.
According to the proposal that I impose, I must condemn your behavior, punish you and restrain others
Police found more than 113 000 $ in cash at Li’s home in Kew.
Although the two friends were part of an illicit drug syndicate, they were not the masterminds. The ringleader, a bitcoin trader, cannot be named for legal reasons.
The ringleader led the import and owned a controlling interest of 60 percent. He used bitcoin to buy a significant amount of drugs with cryptocurrency which were then converted into Australian bank accounts, said Judge Cahill.
The police that controlled you watched both of you regularly visit the shelter.
“You, Mr. MacBeth, have collected the drug parcels that were brought into Australia. You, Mr. Lee, have also assisted in a drug trafficking operation.”
The couple disguised the parcels they sent using children’s toys, cushions and pillows.
The federal police intercepted more than 123 international parcels containing drugs, and another 14 were found at post offices between March and September 2017.
Inside these packages were 1.8 kilograms of cocaine, 5.4 kilograms of MDA and 886 grams of ketamine, designed for more than 20 different mailboxes and parcel lockers around Melbourne, many of which were set up using other people’s driver’s licenses.
In total, police seized 30.93 kilograms of drugs throughout the operation.
On Wednesday, MacBeth and Lee stood side by side in the dock when the court heard about a couple fighting with drug addiction and difficult family circumstances.
Judge Cahill noted that MacBeth met with the wealthy head of the syndicate through his work as a subscriber before acquiring stakes in the illicit drug business.
The court found out that MacBeth turned to drugs after the death of his sister. His family was “completely blind” from his crimes.
According to Judge Cahill, he was told that he would be deported to his native New Zealand after serving his sentence.
Meanwhile, Lee, born in New Zealand, is also being deported.
Lee, who had no previous criminal record, attended RMIT University before buying into a crime syndicate.
I admit that you sincerely and deeply repented, the judge said.
MacBeth pleaded guilty to importing and trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug controlled by the border, and of trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug of dependence. He was sentenced to seven years in prison with parole for a term of four years.
Lee pleaded guilty to trafficking in commercial quantities of addiction and border controlled drugs. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
Both men have already served 824 days.