Strike Force Delaney: Ben Woodard and Jason Luke Ritchie refused bail, accused of supplying ice in Tamworth, Woolomin and Nundle areas

Money seized: Police allege they found more than $35,000 in cash in a car linked to Ben Woodard on Sunday.
Money seized: Police allege they found more than $35,000 in cash in a car linked to Ben Woodard on Sunday.

A MAGISTRATE has denied bail to two men allegedly working as part of a syndicate to supply ice, telling the court the allegations were "exceptionally serious" and "exceptionally worrying".

Ben Woodard, 32, is accused of dealing in more than $200,000 in cash that Oxley detectives allege is the proceeds of crime, and supplying more than 1.1kg of the drug ice.

The Leader can reveal Jason Luke Ritchie, 25, is the second person arrested by investigators from Strike Force Delaney after he was taken into custody in Tamworth on Tuesday.

He’s facing a charge of supplying methylamphetamine, namely more than 150g of ice – or 30 times than the indictable quantity.

Refused bail: Ben Woodard. Photo: Facebook

Refused bail: Ben Woodard. Photo: Facebook

Woodard, who is facing life imprisonment for large commercial supply, is being housed in maximum security at Cessnock Correctional Centre and appeared via video link in court, waving at his partner in Tamworth Local Court.

Refused bail: Jason Luke Ritchie. Photo: Facebook

Refused bail: Jason Luke Ritchie. Photo: Facebook

Aboriginal Legal Service solicitor Ben Curnow lodged a fresh application for bail, just two days after the previous one, telling the court two family members could provide $5,000 surety – $2,000 more than the previous bail bid.

Drugs seized: Police allege they found a quantity of methamphetamine in a car linked to Ben Woodard on Sunday.

Drugs seized: Police allege they found a quantity of methamphetamine in a car linked to Ben Woodard on Sunday.

Mr Curnow said his client was facing a “significant time” in custody waiting for “telephone intercepts [that] need to be transcribed”, and he needed to be on bail to care for family members.

The court was told Woodard had previously complied with court orders and bail, and completed community service and intensive corrections orders in the past.

He said Woodard works for a rural fencing company and had seasonal hay work lined up.

Magistrate Ian Guy said, on the prosecution’s case, Woodard was a “major participant in the ongoing supply” of ice and cocaine.

“Approximately one kilogram of methamphetamine has been bought and sold,” he told the court.

He said police alleged Woodard had access to significant sums of cash with “$36,000 or so in a car linked to the defendant together with further quantities of drugs".

“The extracts of the telephone intercepts ... indicate an exceptionally strong case,” he said.

Approximately one kilogram of methamphetamine has been bought and sold.

Magistrate Ian Guy

Mr Guy said the “troubling aspect” was that Woodard allegedly had "ready access to a pistol" which he said “again raises concerns about the protection of the community".

He said there was a “substantial amount of money involved in the ‘syndicate’” and $5,000 surety “would not provide any incentive to answer” the charges before the court.

“There is a substaintal risk of non-attendance,” he said. “A substantial risk to the community of further offending … bail is refused.”

Ritchie was dressed in a black hooded jumper and sat with his head bowed in Tamworth Local Court on Wednesday as Legal Aid solicitor Wendy McAuliffe lodged a bid for bail.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Cynthia Donovan said the “protection of the community is at stake” with Ritchie posing a risk of further serious offences or interfering with evidence.

She told the court “there is communications” between Woodard and Ritchie which would form part of the extensive telephone intercepts, police had obtained.

The court heard it was an “ongoing investigation” and there were more co-accused.

Ms McAuliffe said Ritchie had the support of family, who were in court, and he could live in West Tamworth and remain under house arrest or a curfew.

She said Ritchie had a “short criminal history” but had complied with community service orders, bail and bonds in the past.

The court heard Ritchie had dishonesty matters on his record, along with convictions for possessing an unauthorised firearm and break-and-enter.

“On the prosecution case, he has had a trusted and not an insignificant role in the supply of methamphetamine,” Mr Guy said, adding Ritchie was “trusted in … possession of sums of money”.

He said the prospect of a conviction is high along with the likelihood of further offending, meaning flight was a  concern, and refused bail.

The pair return to court in October.

Strike Force Delaney was set-up in early-2017 by Oxley detectives and the Oxley Target Action Group to investigate the supply of drugs in the Tamworth area.

On the prosecution case, he has had a trusted and not an insignificant role in the supply of methamphetamine.

Magistrate Ian Guy

The Leader revealed the investigation after raids on Sunday in Tamworth, Woolomin and Coonamble which saw drugs, cash, phones and other goods seized.