NSW web drug kingpin found purpose online

Cody Ward operated a dark web drug business from his home on NSW's south coast.
Cody Ward operated a dark web drug business from his home on NSW's south coast.

A "real-life loser" has told a judge he became an online NSW drug kingpin to feel connected to a community and find purpose in life

Cody Ronald Ward, 26, has pleaded guilty to six of the main charges laid against him including the importation of commercial quantities of a border-controlled drug and supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.

Each offence carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Ward operated a dark web drug business from his Callala Bay home on the state's south coast for about four years under the pseudonym of NSWGreat, the District Court heard during his sentence hearing on Thursday.

Following his arrest in February 2019, he was allegedly found with MDMA, 2.5 kilograms of cocaine, amphetamine, 100,000 LSD tabs, Xanax disguised as candy, pills, $80,000 cash, laptops and money counters.

On Thursday, Ward gave evidence via video-link of a troubled childhood from "severe" bullying, saying he was obese with few friends.

But after creating alter-egos in computer games and becoming fascinated with cryptocurrency, he ordered drug samples from across the world and became "deeply involved".

"In real life, I was a loser ... nobody cared to talk to me ... everybody looked down on me," he said.

"Online everyone looked up to me ... everyone would talk to me."

After starting his darknet business, he felt like he had a sense of community, a purpose, social acceptance, and found friends, he said.

He has since been diagnosed in custody with social anxiety disorder.

He has been allegedly linked with $17 million worth of cryptocurrency transactions, and said a lot of the money went to feeding his heavy daily drug habit.

Starting with cannabis at 16, his drug-taking evolved with LCD, cocaine, MDMA, Oxycodone, Xanax, Valium, GHB, DMT, and ended in daily heroin usage leaving him so drug-addled his thoughts were a mess, he said.

Police prosecutor Mark Rollestone questioned how he could run such a sophisticated online drug syndication operation across multiple online platforms in such a state.

"I made a lot more mistakes than you would believe, it wasn't as smooth flowing as you would think," he responded.

Following his arrest, pictures emerged online of him "living the high-life" with fancy sports cars including a Mercedes-Benz and Maserati.

Judge Robyn Tupman said the subsequent impression "made you look as if you were very, very rich".

Ward said the unregistered Maserati worth $7000 was a statutory right-off, but his lawyer Kieran Ginges said the general public was led to believe his family from the small town were well-off.

Inside the Goulburn 'Supermax' prison Ward says he was threatened by bikies with blades over an extortion attempt after he was dragged off-camera.

The now-reformed weekly church-goer and meditator who says he has lost about 25kg in prison said his outlook has transformed and he has developed a better relationship with his father. He knows he might never see him again as a free man.

He is due to be sentenced on February 12, 2021.

Australian Associated Press