Chemist to drug courier: Dad's job in huge meth ring exposed
"I DO not feel any sympathy. He needed some money? Big deal, he knew how dreadful this substance was."
Brisbane Supreme Court Justice Jean Dalton did not mince her words on Wednesday during the pre-sentence hearing of a pharmacist over his role in a decade-long $20 million methamphetamine trafficking operation spanning Queensland and NSW.
Steven Thanh Phong Tran pleaded guilty to six charges including possessing and trafficking a dangerous drug.
Police busted the Doolandella father-of-one with 5kg of methamphetamine during a search of his vehicle in a McDonald's car park at Rockhampton on August 1, 2017.
He and the alleged ring-leader of the operation were both in the vehicle and on their way to Mackay to deliver the drugs to a local buyer who would then distribute them in the north Queensland region.
In what local police described as the biggest drug bust in central Queensland history, the vehicle search was triggered by a public tip-off.
The other men allegedly involved in the operation have not yet been sentenced.
The alleged ring-leader was expected to be in the dock alongside Tran on Wednesday, but that co-accused's appearance was delayed after his legal team told the court they were withdrawing from representing him.
The court heard the syndicate and its network of couriers regularly shipped methamphetamine and cannabis from Sydney to Brisbane and then from Brisbane to Mackay.
They also delivered massive sums of money on return trips across both states.
Tran became involved in the syndicate in 2008 or 2009, when he was desperate for cash to pay his mortgage and other bills.
The court heard he worked for the operation for years, before taking a break from 2011 to 2014 when he went overseas and married.
Returning to Queensland with a baby and his wife, Tran dived back into the courier role, delivering around 10 to 12 kilograms of methamphetamine to Mackay annually for almost four years and returning on each trip with hundreds of thousands of dollars to hand over to his Brisbane boss.
The Mackay drug delivery legs netted around $1.8m to $2.1m for the syndicate each year.
Tran was also operating as a go-between for the syndicate in Brisbane, delivering about $2m in ice over four months to a Brisbane buyer and he would often fly to Sydney, pick up methamphetamine and squirrel it away into his luggage before returning to Brisbane with the drugs.
The court heard Tran admitted to police about his involvement with the syndicate for 10 years, but was charged only for his wrong-doings in relation to the 3.8 years leading up to the Rockhampton bust.
It is estimated he delivered drugs worth about $10m over the 3.8 years but Tran made only $120,000.
His barrister Ben Power said Tran entered the operation needing cash after his client's ventures as a chemist and fish farmer failed.
Mr Power said Tran's family would suffer while the drug runner was in jail, with his wife's small beauty business unlikely to make enough money to cover the mortgage on their Brisbane home.
However, Justice Dalton deflected the comments saying she had no sympathy for Tran and that it was he who brought the pain on his wife and son.
"As a pharmacist, this man must have known that in the kilos and kilos he was shifting, how many doses there were and how many would result in a fatal overdoses," Justice Dalton said.
"He knew how very dangerous what he was doing was and the medical consequences."
Tran's wife and five-year-old son were in court on Wednesday to watch the 38-year-old's crimes detailed, the woman crying as she hugged him goodbye before he was led to the cells after his bail was revoked pending his sentence in a few weeks. - NewsRegional