Cody Ronald Ward, 26, who was making thousands of dollars daily selling drugs on the dark web has told an Australian court that he “didn’t take it very seriously” and that he “used to role play as a drug trafficker” on video games when he was a teenager.
He pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court to multiple drug offences which include six for importing or supplying large commercial quantities of border-controlled and prohibited drugs. Cody sold these drugs on dark web markets. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of life behind bars.
During his sentence hearing before Judge Robyn Tupman on Thursday, Ward said that he expects to stay in jail for a large part of his life.
Cody Ronald said, “The entire thing was naive, immature stupidity,”
Cody was arrested in February 2019 as the mastermind of a dark web drug syndicate police allege had traded in $17 million of drugs including MDMA, ecstasy, LSD and amphetamines.
Ward said that he always played the role of a drug dealer as a child saying:
When I was 17, I used to role play as a drug trafficker and drug supplier, I used to get very involved in role play games where you would get deeply involved into a character like you would as an actor. It (the offending) felt very similar but instead of being rich in a game, you earn money in real life.
Cody appeared via a video link, where he said that he started selling drugs on the dark web in 2015 and had a gross income of “thousands a day”.
Cody said, “I was fascinated about the cryptocurrency, and obviously what went hand-in-hand (at the time) … was the drug marketplaces,”
Cody operated under the vendor name “NSWGreat”, and he used multiple dark web marketplaces saying, “similar to how you would set up an eBay account”.
“You would have access to then list drugs, receive orders and mark them as sent and so forth,” Cody said. “Marketplaces come and go. They would last one year or two years.
“You would move as the websites get taken down, either as the owners would perform exit schemes or the police take the websites down.”
But the result was like a “hydra effect”, he said, referencing the Greek legend of the Lernaean Hydra monster.
“You cut the head off, nine more (marketplaces) pop up,” Ward said.
24-year-old Shanese Koullias and her sister Patricia Koullias, 22, who are his co-offenders, are also awaiting sentencing for their roles in the operation and supplying prohibited substances.
Judge Tupman told the court that photographs of the trio published in the media after their arrests made them look like they had been “living the high life” and that the women appeared to be “some high-profile socialite sort of person”.
Cody Ronald Ward told the court he was “quite severely” bullied at school, with his barrister Kieran Ginges’ suggesting he had been “obese” and a “social outcast”.
He said, “In real life I was a loser, nobody, no one cared to talk to me, everyone just looked down on me,”.
“Online, everyone looked up to me, everyone wanted to talk to me.”
He claimed that he did not have many friends and had a crush on Shanese Koullias.
He said, “We were best friends growing up,”.
“She supported me through things and I supported her through things.” Cody said he would send her the “distribution ledger” after taking care of all the administration – orders, customer support and accounting.
According to forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Allnutt, the 26-year-old was “significantly addicted to heroin” when he was caught.
“I was completely drug f***ed,” Ward said, adding that it led to a lot of “mistakes”.
Asked under cross-examination by government prosecutors how he had maintained his 4.94-star rating on the Dream Market darknet market if he was so “drug addled”, Cody said he often refunded customers, resolved their issues or compensated them with more drugs before they left any negative feedback on his dark web profile.
Santencing for dark web drug dealing.
Patricia and Shanese Koullias are both due to be sentenced on Friday. Ward’s sentence hearing will commence in February 2021.
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