THEY supplied large quantities of cocaine, ice and MDMA, directed a Newcastle-based criminal group that mailed drugs to Queensland, forced a man into becoming a drug mule, texted in code and made thousands of dollars.
But former Newcastle boxer Kirk Lawton, 45, and fellow high-ranking syndicate member Taha Eldarwich will be out of jail in less than three years after the pair were sentenced in Newcastle District Court on Wednesday.
Lawton, who last month told Judge Roy Ellis he started supplying drugs to help clear son Beau Lawton’s $50,000 drug debt, was jailed for a maximum of seven years and three months, with a non-parole period of four years and six months.
Eldarwich – who sourced the drugs and then transported them from Sydney to Newcastle where they were distributed by Kirk Lawton and Newcastle rugby union player Dylan Heins – was jailed for a maximum of seven years and nine months, with a non-parole period of five years.
Both men have been in custody since Strike Force Rupas detectives smashed the drug operation in July, 2015, meaning their sentences were backdated more than two years. The sentences mean Lawton will be eligible for parole in January, 2020, while Eldarwich will be able to be released in July, 2020.
Both men had pleaded guilty to six counts, including two counts of supplying a commercial quantity of MDMA, a total of more than 600 grams or 2000 ecstasy tablets as well as supplying an indictable quantity of cocaine, supplying an indictable quantity of methylamphetamine and knowingly participate in a criminal group.
The charge of supplying a commercial quantity of prohibited drugs carries a maximum of 20 years in jail.
“The criminality involved here is of a serious type,” Judge Roy Ellis said.
“A number of people were recruited to work beneath them, the supply extended interstate and threats were made to at least one of the drug mules.”
Judge Ellis accepted that Beau Lawton’s drug debt may have been a factor in Kirk Lawton starting to supply himself, but said it wasn’t the only factor.
Heins was jailed for a maximum of two years and nine months, with a non-parole period of 18 months in Newcastle District Court last week after he pleaded guilty to supplying an indictable quantity of cocaine – 83.8 grams with a potential street value of $50,000 – and knowingly participate in a criminal group.
Two members of another major Hunter drug distribution network brought down by Strike Force Rupas – Kirk Lawton’s son, Beau Lawton, and Paul Colvin – will be sentenced on Friday.