‘Herb keeper’ has ‘stealth’ drug business shut down
A HAMILTON Island supervisor turned drug trafficker began a "novel and sophisticated" enterprise after a workplace back injury left him in pain.
Andrew John Collett, 34, sold a cocktail of drugs to 17 customers over seven months last year including heroin, methylamphetamine, ketamine, marijuana, DMT, LSD and MDMA
He advertised his ability to also sell oxycodone, GHB and cocaine.
"There is no other way to describe this business other than it was one aimed at selling dangerous drugs whatever the drug may be that the customer wanted," Crown prosecutor Samantha O'Rourke said of the 31 transactions.
"It was a sophisticated enterprise operating largely based on the encrypted mail service called Proton.
"That sophistication extended to him offering a service to his customers called 'stealth postage' where (Collett) would wipe down packages of drugs before they were sent.
"It is accepted the quantities supplied were at a street level though often transactions involved more than one dangerous drug."
Mackay Supreme Court heard police found a number of the drugs Collett sold at his Airlie Beach home during a search on October 4 last year.
Officers also found instructions for growing marijuana and other evidence of his commercial drug business.
He initially told police he was an herb keeper to minimise his criminal behaviour.
He has now pleaded guilty to trafficking, drug possession and 14 summary charges.
Collett, who did not have any prior criminal history, grew up in the Beaudesert and Jimboomba areas and has since returned there after his arrest.
His mother, brother and a reverend from the Uniting Church where he has been living for several months travelled up for his sentence on Tuesday.
Defence barrister Scott McLennan said his client had worked in horticulture in nurseries most of his life and had started as a gardener on Hamilton Island before moving up to supervisor.
He said Collett met his wife on Hamilton Island in 2013 and they bought a home in Airlie Beach.
Mr McLennan said while Collett's wife was pregnant with their son, who was now five, he suffered a back injury at work that sent him on a path to opioid addiction.
He said his client successfully completed a retreat in Peru, where his wife is from, to get himself off oxycodone and valium.
There he tried a brew indigenous to the Amazon Basin and cannabis oil that helped relieve the pain.
While he determined to stay away from painkillers upon his return to Australia, the court heard a family issue sent him back down the drug path and he became a heroin addict.
Mr McLennan said Collett's business was focused mainly on drugs with healing properties such as iowaska/ayahuasca analogues and cannabis oil because his clients were predominantly 'hippies'.
He said customers had email accounts such as 'free spirit energy', 'mystic Wal', 'low-desert gypsy' and 'Robert loves growing marijuana'.
"Most were interested in hallucinogens and spirituality," he said.
"Others were interested in drugs with supposed healing properties, particular cannabis oil."
Mr McLennan said there was a modest profit of $3567 from the trafficking, which his client used to fund his opioid addiction at a time when he could not work.
He said Collett was described in references as "an uncommonly decent and good bloke".
Justice David North described the trafficking business as a novel and sophisticated commercial operation, noting Collett's mail service involved a $15 'stealth postage' fee.
For this, Collett would conceal the drugs in multiple vacuum packaged bags, wipe them down with alcohol and delete evidence of the drug supply a few days after it was sent.
Justice North said Collett was promoting his business and looking to expand it before he was caught.
He sentenced Collett to three-and-a-half years in jail. He will be eligible to apply for parole on May 17 next year after he has served six months.
"The trafficking of dangerous drugs through the community is a well-known public evil," he said.