Judge says 27-year-old adopted alter ego of a cyber criminal while playing Grand Theft Auto and became obsessed with drugs on internet.
Cody Ward, 27, pleaded guilty last year to importing commercial quantities of controlled drugs and shipping them through Australia Post disguised as lollies.
He was arrested at his Callala Beach home on the NSW south coast in February 2019, along with his co-accused, sisters Shanese and Patricia Koullias, then aged 24 and 20.
During his sentencing in the Downing Centre District Court on Friday, Judge Robyn Tupman said financial reward was not his primary motivation but instead he committed his crimes to gain acceptance and “notoriety online”.
“I do accept that while there was profit it was not as large as might have been expected and, to an extent, it was a by-product and not the primary motivation,” Judge Tupman said.
Judge Tupman said the online world provided Ward with a “sense of community” he did not otherwise have after being “subject to bullying at school”, which “exacerbated his social anxiety”.
“He developed a significant drug addiction and started to adopt the alter-ego of a cyber criminal,” Judge Tupman said.
“He did not think about the moral implications of what he was doing.”
‘Genuine remorse and contrition’
At the time, police labelled the bust the “first and biggest penetration of the dark web” in Australia.
When Ward was arrested he also owned a second-hand Mercedes Benz worth $70,000, a Maserati that cost him $7,000, and a Mitsubishi Evo worth $15,000.
Judge Tupman said Ward had lost 25 kilograms since overcoming his addiction in prison and had demonstrated “genuine remorse and contrition” for his crimes.
“He is regarded as polite and getting on with other inmates,” she said.
“A letter from the prison chaplain has also provided him with positive references … and he has been going to church regularly.”
Ward sat calmly and quietly while his matter was heard and became visibly emotional when the judge mentioned his prison term would likely mean he would not see his father again as a free man.
“It is unfortunate but likely that by the time he leaves custody his father may have succumbed to illness,” Judge Tupman said.
Ward’s sentence will commence from the date of his arrest in February 2019.
His co-accused Shanese Koullias was sentenced in February to eight years in prison with a four-year non parole period.
Her younger sister Patricia Koullias received a three-year prison sentence in December with a non-parole period of 22 months.