Thomas Nickless, 27, has been sentenced to eight months in prison for attempting to import illegal drugs into Australia via the dark web and getting them sent to a post office in the Victorian coastal hamlet of Metung.
Australia Border Force seized five parcels addressed to Nickless, care of the Metung post office, over a period of nine months between May 2018 and February 2019.
The packages, which had been sent from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, contained 61 grams of powder containing MDMA, 9.8 grams of powder containing cocaine and 35.3 grams of power containing amphetamines.
Nickless had used cryptocurrency to purchase the drugs.
“The attempted importations were part of your small-scale business to bring drugs into Australia by post, pick them up at the Metung post office, use them yourself and sell small amounts to friends and acquaintances,” County Court Judge Gerard Mullaly said in sentencing.
“Securing drugs via the anonymity of the dark web creates difficulties in terms of detection and the use of cryptocurrency adds a level of sophistication and planning.
“You told police you had ordered drugs on 10 to 15 times but only 10 arrived,” Judge Mullaly said.
In March 2019, police raided Nickless’s house in Metung and found a small amount of ecstasy, ketamine and Xanax, as well as four cannabis plants growing in a tank.
Judge Mullaly said that while Nickless’s offending was at the amateur end of the scale, he was persistent and mostly successful in getting drugs into the country and “had a small drug-trafficking business chugging away in East Gippsland”.
Drug use escalated after car crash
The court heard that, in November 2014, Nickless had suffered serious injuries and some level of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, after crashing his car on his way home from work at the Metung Hotel.
“Your recovery from your injuries took a significant period and your drug and alcohol consumption increased; your previous sporting activities were curtailed,” the judge said.
Judge Mullaly said the likelihood that Nickless’s full-time job at Gippsland Ports, as part of the Kalimna dredging crew, would not be available when he was released from prison had caused him to give “anxious consideration” to the sentence.
“Prison is a different and much harder place now … the increased onerous burden of prison is felt more by those imprisoned for the first time, especially first offenders such as you are,” Judge Mullaly told Nickless.
The judge said he had “anxiously weighed up” all sentencing options to see if any alternatives to prison were appropriate but told Nickless that “in the end, attempting to import drugs into this county at the levels involved here, by you, with all your favourable personal circumstances remains too serious to be met by a non-custodial penalty”.
Nickless pleaded guilty to seven charges including attempting to import a border-controlled drug, and possession and trafficking offences.
He was sentenced to two years in prison, but must serve just eight months as part of a recognizance release order.