Two NSW men who got in over their heads when they agreed to act as couriers for the drug syndicate involving fallen NRL star Jarrod Mullen have been jailed.
Brett Robert Pearce, 35, and Aaron Macey, 29, were sentenced on Friday in the Downing Centre District Court over their role in the operation which stretched from Newcastle to Sydney before it was smashed by a police sting in 2018.
Pearce was sentenced to five years and three months in jail and must serve at least two years and seven months, meaning with time served he could be released in July 2021.
Macey, from Sydney's eastern suburbs, was jailed for four years and six months and will be eligible for parole after two years and three months.
From November to December 2018, police surveillance caught Pearce on three occasions making cocaine deliveries totalling 680 grams on behalf of his brother, Matthew Shane Pearce, for which he was paid $2000 per trip.
Matthew Pearce has been described as the kingpin of the syndicate and will face court in June after pleading guilty to a raft of charges including supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.
Judge Peter Whitford said Brett Pearce's offending was rooted in maintaining his drug habit and at all times was directed by his brother.
The court heard he had suffered long-term depression and anxiety and had self-medicated with cocaine and ice. His drug use increased following the birth of his son in 2018.
At the height of his addiction, Pearce was using two grams of cocaine and half a gram of methamphetamine a day, as well as binge drinking.
"He is not by nature of a criminal or anti-social disposition ... and was weakened by addiction and other financial stresses," Judge Whitford said.
Pearce also pleaded guilty to supplying 100 litres of the industrial solvent butanediol, which can be used as an alternative to party drug GHB.
When police raided his Wangi Wangi home, they found a makeshift laboratory including glass beakers as well as 13.5 kilograms of butanediol.
Despite having no training as a chemist, he was employed by his brother to refine butanediol into GHB.
According to court documents, he was caught during a police telephone intercept asking his brother: "Hey bro, last question, about it. What is our end result supposed to be like?"
The court heard Macey acted as a courier for the syndicate after being introduced to Matthew Pearce through Les Mason - the brother of former NRL star Willie Mason - at a pub in Sydney's east in October 2018.
He had pleaded guilty to two charges, including supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, and was facing a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Macey was caught with 379g of cocaine and 100l of butanediol supplied by Pearce during a series of drug deals held at public places including a McDonald's and a Caltex service station.
During his police interview, he said that he had been told by Matthew Pearce that butanediol was not illegal.
He also confessed he was a heavy drug user and abused illegal substances to deal with emotional trauma.
Five members of the racket have now been jailed, with Les Mason sentenced to six years in jail.
Jay Ramsden - who was arrested alongside Brett Pearce - was handed a three-year sentence for his involvement, while former Newcastle Knights and NSW halfback Mullen was given a three-year community corrections order.