21 March 2024

'Little time dealer' forced to supply meth out of fear of 'punishments' from 'tax people'

| Albert McKnight

A man is arrested as part of Strike Force Ginga’s raids in Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra on 30 November 2022. Photo: NSW Police.

Caught selling drugs around Queanbeyan by terrifying “tax people”, a small-time dealer claims he was forced to continue selling drugs so to pay off a debt – which is how he unsuspectingly ended up selling meth to undercover police officers.

Ricky Wilkinson supplied about 265 grams of methamphetamine to two undercover officers between October and November 2022 before he was arrested as part of Strike Force Ginga, which had targeted the drug supply in Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra. Police also seized about $32,000 cash from his home.

He had been dealing drugs to fund his own habit when he got a knock on his door from “some certain people” who “didn’t like it that [he] was dealing in their neighbourhood”, he claimed in the Queanbeyan District Court on Wednesday (20 March).

“I was just a little-time dealer,” the 40-year-old said.

“They said to me I’ve been selling drugs in their ‘hood’, and I owe them tax, and my tax was to be 10 grand a week.

“[They told me] to pay the money, or they were going to break my legs and put me in hospital.”

He claimed they told him to pay $35,000, which he didn’t have, and it was only afterwards that he started selling meth to the undercover officers.

“I felt like this was a way for me to get out,” he said of why he kept dealing to the police.

“I was scared for my life.”

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He claimed that while he worked as a scaffolder and was earning over $1000 a week, it wouldn’t have been enough to pay off his “tax”, and if he didn’t sell the drugs, then “there’d be punishments”.

Also, he said the $35,000 debt was still outstanding as all of the money he got from the police officers had gone to paying off “a late tax fee” to the stand-over men.

Under cross-examination, the prosecutor told Wilkinson that his claims these men told him to keep dealing drugs in the same area “didn’t make any sense”. When asked who they were, he replied, “No comment”.

He admitted he had been dealing drugs before selling them to the police but said it had been “just a little bit of meth”.

$50 notes on a car seat

Cash was seized in 2022 as part of Strike Force Ginga’s raids in Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra. Photo: NSW Police.

The court heard that in January 2022, Wilkinson was sentenced for other drug-related offences and was handed an intensive corrections order (ICO).

“I was holding them [those drugs] for an associate,” he claimed of his earlier offences.

Wilkinson pleaded guilty to charges of supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Judge Peter Whitford said he was satisfied Wilkinson was motivated to sell drugs to pay off a drug debt, but the circumstances around the accumulation of that debt were uncertain.

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He also said the dealer had suffered a degree of extra curial punishment as “he appears to have been assaulted quite ferociously at the time of his arrest”, and he was not able to see a nurse to assess his injuries for months after he was taken into custody.

“It is an appalling state of affairs in a civilised society,” the judge said.

Wilkinson was convicted and sentenced to two years and seven months in jail with a non-parole period of one year and four months. His sentence was backdated to account for time served, and he had to serve jail time from his cancelled ICO. He will be eligible for parole in October 2024.

Meanwhile, Joshua Viseth Sonee, who was 33 at the time of his arrest by Strike Force Ginga in November 2022, has been sentenced to a total of three years’ jail with a non-parole period of 18 months on charges of supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

As his sentence was also backdated to account for time served, he is eligible to be released from May 2024.

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