Torikai James Walsh (main) and members of his inner circle Israel Traecey and Tamara Jane Warrington.
Torikai James Walsh (main) and members of his inner circle Israel Traecey and Tamara Jane Warrington.

Feds crack millennials’ ingenious drug scheme

IT IS THE ultimate millennial crime story: the wannabe Gold Coast gangster who moonlighted as a "doof doof DJ" and teamed-up with a Colombian drug family with links to notorious cartels.

At just 24, Torikai James Walsh was making more money than those twice his age, but his ultimate downfall was his approach to life - there was nothing that popped into his mind that didn't end with a phone call, text message or social media post to his drug-dealing posse.

For Australian Federal Police agents Craig O'Brien and Kris Urquhart, it meant they hit paydirt in terms of evidence - but it required listening to hours of mind-numbing, Cheech and Chong-type rambling between friends who got caught up in a significant cocaine drug bust, which led to the arrest and charging of 15 offenders and collective jail sentences of over 20 years.

Torikai James Walsh’s mugshot
Torikai James Walsh’s mugshot

 

Walsh’s then girlfriend Tamara Jane Warrington
Walsh’s then girlfriend Tamara Jane Warrington

"They were painful. Half the time they were such drugged-out idiots but most of the time they were talking about absolute crap,'' Urquhart said.

"He (Walsh) would talk about his music. He would talk to his father about the different types of drugs that he wanted to try.

"He wanted to go to South America to try a certain drug."

O'Brien said: "He was quite active on the phone ... but prolific on text messaging being Gen Y.

"Instead of ringing someone up he would sit there and have an entire conversation in a space of an hour on text messages, just constant back and forth.

"It would be about almost nothing.

"Occasionally, he would text Tamara (who has now been released from jail) and say, 'Can you see if you can get one of your friends to do some money for me tomorrow?' "

Today, Insight can reveal the details of Operation Stonecoal and how a circle of young friends were involved in the importation of numerous consignments of cocaine into southeast Queensland and northern NSW, totalling about 5.5kg, with an estimated street value of $750,000.

To this day, O'Brien and Urquhart do not know how an unkempt semi-DJ was able to make connections with a serious crime family in Colombia.

They think he may have hooked up with the drug suppliers during one of his trips overseas or through his DJ-ing.

It is believed South Americans have come to Queensland and NSW looking to find those willing to partner with them to import drugs.

Walsh was a ‘doof doof’ DJ on the Gold Coast.
Walsh was a ‘doof doof’ DJ on the Gold Coast.

 

Enter the bikies

IN 2012, the AFP and Australian Border Force identified suspicious funds being transferred to South America via cash remitters Western Union.

It would often coincide with the attempt by dealers to import cocaine into Australia.

"We got some information about the Bandidos on the Gold Coast, with some importation activity going on,'' O'Brien said.

"(Knowing we were looking as well, Queensland Police Service) approached us and said, 'Let's pool our resources and have a look at it from go to whoa.'

"We would look at the Commonwealth offences and all the importation activity and the QPS wold focus on the trafficking."

They believe Walsh had been importing drugs for about 18 months and was supplying the Bandidos before investigations started.

The importation method was ingenious, but Walsh needed his friends to help him succeed.

His inner circle included William Laurie Corbett, Israel Traecey and his then 21-year-old girlfriend Tamara Jane Warrington.

But there were some hiccups along the way. Corbett and Walsh would have creative drug differences.

 

An X-ray image of drugs concealed in luggage
An X-ray image of drugs concealed in luggage

 

Corbett got into ice - and for a cocaine dealer that was unacceptable.

Boss man Walsh managed the importation and distribution, negotiation and payment to the overseas drug lords.

But Urquhart says Walsh wasn't really a mastermind.

"He wasn't doing the hard work at all. The concealment, the parcels, was all done by the group overseas.

"He just primarily... would say, 'here's an address to send it to'.

"It was quite random and they tried all different methods."

The cocaine itself was packed in luggage, office products and even a guitar.

"They (sent the drugs) to individual houses, they started sending it to virtual offices, that's where a lot of paper ones and cardboard ones were going too."

Walsh would look up vacant properties on real estate websites and use those as the drug addresses.

He would wait for a legitimate courier to turn up to the house - because he would track the parcels - and take ownership of the package.

 

 

Torikai James Walsh brandishes a firearm
Torikai James Walsh brandishes a firearm

 

 

Old school ties

 

AS TIME progressed, more packages were being detected by authorities so the importation method would change but parcels were still getting through.

His girlfriend and friends, many whom he knew from his high school days, were recruited to transfer money to syndicates to pay for the drugs.

Spreading the risk, and to prevent suspicions, the different recruiters would use false stories to explain why they were transferring money, such as sending cash for gifts, to book DJs or flights.

It is believed Walsh would just turn up at Bandidos haunts when gear would arrive.

Over 18 months, until December 2013, the group had sent about $519,000 to the overseas syndicate.

Most of the money went to Medellin, Colombia, a known high-risk location, but also to the UK and Israel.

The Colombian drug dealers were a well-known crime family with links to cartels.

"Walsh fit the mould of a gangster wannabe,'' O'Brien said.

 

Cocaine concealed within luggage
Cocaine concealed within luggage

 

At a shooting range in Thailand, wearing a cap and dark sunglasses, Walsh could not help but have a photo taken of him brandishing a gun like a character from a bad movie.

"He really loved the lifestyle and what goes with it,'' O'Brien said.

He was a bloke from the hippy townships of northern NSW, with a Rolex, a Range Rover, an SS Commodore and a racing drift car.

Walsh rewarded his mates with about $100 to remit money but would also spend large when taking them out on the town.

"He would go to the casinos on the Gold Coast and the night clubs and get behind a VIP rope and buy all his mates drinks.

"When we spoke to a lot of his friends after, who did the money remittances (and asked) why? They would say, 'he takes us out'."

Walsh would blow between $5000 and $10,000 a night - buying top-end drinks for his posse or put on big parties at his house at Coffs Harbour.

He would then end up at the casino, often losing.

During the investigation, international authorities in the US and Colombia also detected and seized 3.2kg of cocaine destined for Australia.

A further 42 suspected consignments of cocaine were imported. However, when the drugs got here, there was radio silence.

 

A surveillance photo of the suspects
A surveillance photo of the suspects

 

"Torikai was undisciplined when he was talking to his suppliers overseas,'' Urquhart said.

He would tell them when the drugs would get through and things he would send back.

That's why investigators believe he was on-selling to the Bandidos.

"They (bikies) are more disciplined and say, 'don't contact us, just meet us here','' O'Brien said.

There was a pattern of when drugs would come in, within days, the Bandidos would have access to cocaine.

Given he did not co-operate and give up information, was Walsh scared because of his interactions with bikies?

The pair don't think so.

"He was just a method of supply for them. He didn't owe them money. He was an opportunity to them,'' O'Brien said.

With the AFP's liaison officers in South America, investigators joined forces.

The South Americans asked the AFP to keep their investigation open longer to clear up the probe at their end.

"The syndicate they identified was quite significant over there. It probably warranted a bit more work for them (the Colombian authorities),'' O'Brien said.

"It wasn't cartel material but they were links to the cartels.

"Those guys looked like they were getting supplied by some of the cartels.

"They were a well-known crime family."

 

 

 

The cops pounce

 

 

WHEN the AFP pulled the trigger on the operation on December 3, 2013, about 100 officers were involved - executing about eight warrants in Queensland and northern NSW.

Urquhart and O'Brien were at Coffs Harbour waiting to arrest Walsh, but he and Warrington were arrested by other team members at a five-star hotel on the Gold Coast.

Traecey was arrested at a beachside property in Coffs Harbour and Corbett was arrested six months later in May 2014 by NSW police on unrelated charges.

The arrests led to the identification of a further 11 people who were all friends with Walsh and sent money for him overseas to buy drugs.

During the operation 103 consignments of cocaine were seized.

The investigators said when Walsh was arrested, he was shocked and it soon dawned on him how stupid he was.

His phone was a gold mine of evidence.

He pleaded guilty to importing drugs, and was sent to jail for nine years, with his sentence starting on January 12, 2016.

He has to serve a minimum of five years and will be eligible for parole in 2021.

Warrington pleaded guilty to importing drugs, with two years to serve in the community.

Traecey, also charged with importing drugs, was sentenced to five years' jail and was paroled on November 2018, after serving two years and six months.

Corbett pleaded guilty to importing drugs and served two years in the community.

Eleven other offenders were charged with money laundering. They and received fines and sentenced to a 12-month good behaviour bond.

 

A seized drug parcel
A seized drug parcel