24 April 2024

Alleged trafficker caught in major drug bust granted bail, $2.8 million in crypto beyond police's reach

| Albert McKnight
man leaving court in T-shirt

Thomas Eric Kelleher was granted bail after a lengthy court hearing on Tuesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

One of the men allegedly involved in the ACT’s biggest illegal prescription drug ring has walked out of custody on bail, while a court has heard claims that his co-defendant still has $2.8 million in cryptocurrency beyond the reach of police.

Thomas Eric Kelleher spent about four months in custody before he was granted bail on numerous strict conditions by the ACT Magistrates Court on Tuesday (23 April). Bail was first refused for Mr Kelleher in late 2023.

The 39-year-old was one of a group arrested in early December 2023 over what police alleged to be the largest illegal controlled and prescription drug distribution network ever identified in the ACT and Victoria.

The group allegedly operated an illegal business, similar to an online pharmacy, under the name OzPharmLabs from at least August to December 2023.

Customers allegedly paid in cryptocurrency before the group sent its illicit items to locations across Australia using the postal service, with its hub being in the ACT.

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It is alleged the “boss” was 39-year-old Michael Adam Kustic, who was refused bail last year, while Mr Kelleher stored the stock at his home in O’Connor and packaged the orders for distribution.

In his last unsuccessful bail application, police alleged that 68,000 substances had been seized from his garage, along with a price list showing the items would be sold for $200 to $400 each.

During his bail application on Tuesday, which the prosecution opposed, an acting sergeant alleged that Mr Kustic could access $2.8 million in cryptocurrency, which police had not yet secured.

She said she was concerned that Mr Kelleher “may have been given instructions” by Mr Kustic on securing that cryptocurrency himself.

The acting sergeant also alleged that while Mr Kelleher hadn’t complied with all the court orders requiring him to let police access all of his electronic devices, one of those had since been unlocked, which provided information relevant to the case.

Barrister Kieran Ginges, who appeared for the defendant, said it would take 12 to 18 months for police to analyse all the alleged substances that had been seized and provide the information to the defence teams.

This meant a trial was unlikely to take place until 2026.

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Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker cited this delay when explaining why she would grant bail.

She said the allegations were of “very serious offending”, and if convicted, he would likely spend more time in jail. But she was not satisfied that the prosecution’s concerns about him being released rose to a level that warranted the imprisonment of a person for such a lengthy period before their charges were finalised.

His bail conditions include living in O’Connor under a curfew, not contacting Mr Kustic, reporting to a police station every day, not leaving the ACT and not possessing a coded or decrypted device.

Mr Kelleher has pleaded not guilty to over 30 charges, including five counts of drug trafficking, one count of participating in a criminal group, 10 counts of supplying anabolic steroids and 13 counts of supplying a declared substance.

His matter was adjourned to 30 May. Mr Kustic also remains before the courts.

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