A PROMINENT Tamworth personal trainer faces several years behind bars after admitting to a string of drug supply charges and raking in thousands of dollars that was the proceeds of his drug-dealing ways.
The Leader can now reveal exclusive details behind the operation to catch Mark John McDonald who was the main target in a secret operation by Oxley detectives to smash a drug dealing ring in Tamworth, code-named Strike Force Kotza.
Detectives tracked McDonald’s every move to expose the trainer’s drug dealing, from his Calala home between September and December, last year.
On Wednesday morning, the now 34-year-old sat in a prison cell and was beamed in via video link in Tamworth Local Court, with several family members including his parents and uncle seated in the back of the court.
I’m entering pleas of guilty to four sequences after some ongoing negotiations.Solicitor Amanda Gaw
McDonald pleaded guilty to five charges including supplying cocaine, amphetamine as well as the drug 3, 4 methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine, a type of MDMA or ecstasy.
He also admitted to dealing with proceeds of crime, namely $7440 in cash.
According to new or amended charges laid in court on Wednesday, McDonald supplied 110g of amphetamine in one day on December 8, as well as 120g of 3, 4 methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine between November and December, as well as more than 12g of cocaine over a three-month period.
“I’m entering pleas of guilty to four sequences after some ongoing negotiations,” McDonald’s solicitor Amanda Gaw told the court.
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The court heard 10 other back-up charges would be referred to the district court to be dealt with in sentencing, including several charges of possessing prohibited or restricted drugs like steroids.
“The balance can be withdrawn,” DPP solicitor Andrew Baker told the court, confirming nine charges including commercial drug supply, self-administering drugs and recruiting another to assist in carrying out criminal activity were to be dismissed by the court.
Mr Baker said McDonald would face an arraignment next month to formally enter pleas and tendered the agreed facts of how McDonald was caught by police surveillence.
“Those facts are agreed,” he said.
Magistrate Julie Soars committed McDonald “for sentence … in respect to which you’ve pleaded guilty”.
“Today it is still bail not applied for, refused,” she confirmed.
Co-accused Nicolas Hansen also admitted to supplying 17.5g of MDMA or ecstasy as it’s commonly known.
Flanked by family in court, the 30-year-old pleaded guilty to one offence before charges of commercial drug supply and self-administering drugs were withdrawn and dismissed.
“Negotiations have been very fruitful,” Hansen’s solicitor Garry Johnson told the court, confirming the plea of guilty.
Agreed facts revealed detectives “identified Hansen as an associate” of Mark McDonald who was “the subject of Strike Force Kotzur, which targeted the supply of prohibited drugs in the Tamworth area”.
The offender handed McDonald an envelope containing a quantity of cash and asked what McDonald had on him.Police facts
Facts tendered to the court state Hansen went to McDonald’s house on October 16 last year and the pair “engaged in conduct generally related to prohibited drugs”.
“The offender handed McDonald an envelope containing a quantity of cash and asked what McDonald had on him,” facts state.
McDonald replied that “I got some ‘Emma’ here for ya”, before producing a “plastic resealable bag which contained a dark substance”, later confirmed to be 17.5g of MDMA.
Shave, yeah. That’s what I did last time.Nicholas Hansen
Facts reveal police intercepted the conversation straight after where McDonald told Hansen “you just shave bits at a time”.
“Shave, yeah. That’s what I did last time,” Hansen replied.
Hansen was arrested on February 21 by Strike Force Kotza detectives and remains on bail.
Mr Johnson requested a full background report be prepared ahead of Hansen’s sentencing, which will be mentioned in the district court in August.
A second co-accused, Matthew Raymond Hill fronted court on Wednesday but the DPP said it wasn’t ready to move the case forward.
“My instructions are that negotiations are ongoing and we’re seeing an adjournment,” Mr Baker said.
Hill had his bail varied to allow him to travel for work, after a curfew and twice-weekly reporting conditions prevented him from travelling.
“His work is taking him across NSW … he is declining work as we speak,” solicitor Greg Birtles said.
Hill is accused of supplying 14g of the drug cocaine in the Tamworth area between September 27 and November 17, last year.
Ms Soars deleted the curfew condition, after agreement from the officers-in-charge of the case, and reduced his reporting to once a week.
Hill will return to court in August, with fellow co-accused Dylan Rutter.