One was once a part-time model who remained a popular saxophonist in a jazz band. Another was a veteran of the Newcastle music scene.
But backstage, police allege Craig Lembke and Kent Jackson – along with another man, Dennis Bath – were moonlighting as the front men of a $245 million drug importation racket in charge of shipping 700kg of cocaine into Australia via the South Pacific.
The trio are now facing life behind bars after they were arrested as part of a joint-agency international drug sting which allegedly watched the massive haul being sailed from Tahiti to a bay on Lake Macquarie.
After months of surveillance, state and federal police swooped on a 14-metre twin-hull yacht moored in Catalina Bay on Wednesday.
On board was Mr Bath, a 68-year-old from Broadmeadow. And after the yacht was towed back to a wharf at Toronto, and Mr Bath placed in handcuffs and taken into custody, the officers allegedly found what they were looking for.
Hidden deep in the bow of both hulls were scores of tightly wrapped bricks which authorities say amounted to more than 700kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of $245million. The haul was so big it took a line of officers more than 30 minutes to unload the bricks in front of bemused locals on the Toronto foreshore on Thursday.
Police will allege they began watching the trio after information came from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, formed last year to bring together the Australian Crime Commission and CrimTrac.
The investigation, involving the NSW Police Force's Organised Crime Squad and the Australian Federal Police, had been monitoring increased shipping activity from the South Pacific to Australia linked to large-scale drug importation.
It is alleged the trio had organised to pick up the shipment in Tahiti, with the syndicate’s tentacles also reaching Thailand where some members had allegedly met to help hatch the plan.
In October, Mr Lembke is alleged to have flown to Tahiti to pick up the yacht and sail it home.
Police have not determined the origins of the shipment, but are working with the US Drug Enforcement Agency to investigate possible links to drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia.
The vessel arrived at Coffs Harbour last Friday before it was sailed down the east coast, arriving in Catalina Bay on Monday.
Police swooped on Wednesday afternoon, taking Mr Bath into custody while conducting raids on several Lake Macquarie properties as other search warrants were executed by federal police in Western Australia and Thailand.
Mr Lembke, a 47-year-old former model and talented saxophonist, was arrested at a hotel in Warners Bay and Mr Jackson, 63, was taken into custody at Islington.
Mr Jackson was a bass player in well-known Newcastle bands, The Eighty Eights, Big Bam Boom and more recently, Misbehave.
The trio briefly faced Newcastle Local Court on Thursday morning where they were formally refused bail on the charge of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
As they were facing court, a large team of federal and state police remained at the Toronto wharf to retrieve the huge haul of cocaine, which was carried off by police rescue squad members over several loads using a body stretcher and tarpaulin.
Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said 3.3 tonnes of cocaine had been seized in Australia in the past year.
"We're not naive enough to think that this is the end of the business and to these people who continue to try and bring these types of substances into Australia while we have a significant demand issue," he said.
"We need to ask ourselves some serious questions as a community why we have such an insatiable demand, not only for cocaine, but methamphetamine in this country. We have seen no change in the street price, even though we've seen 3.3 tonnes of drugs removed from the streets in 12 months.
"It says something in relation to the amount of cocaine that is still on the streets.
"It's an education issue. We need to start early with our kids in schools to ensure they don't put this filth in their veins.
"That they don't snort this filth up their nose. We need to ensure we keep filth off the streets."
State Crime Commander Assistant Commissioner Mal Lanyon said the results of recent joint agency investigations were "indicative of the seriousness of NSW's thirst for illicit drugs, particularly cocaine".
"As we recently highlighted, the Organised Crime Squad – with the assistance of our law enforcement partners both here and abroad – has seized tonnes of prohibited drugs and precursors destined for the streets of NSW," Assistant Commissioner Lanyon said.
"With every seizure we make, a syndicate is taken down, but the demand remains high, and another organised criminal syndicate is willing to flip the coin and risk it all to try and exploit that demand for profit.
"NSW Police Force will continue making arrests and seizing drugs – within NSW and offshore – with our partners, including AFP, ACIC, and ABF, but until there's a reduction in demand, we cannot reduce the harm of organised criminal activity on the community."
Australian Border Force acting Assistant Commissioner James Watson said the seizure was "a huge win not only for our law enforcement partners, but for the Australian community".
"It is no secret that cocaine is an extremely harmful and addictive drug that can rip apart and destroy Australian families," he said.
"No matter how you criminal syndicates attempt to try to circumvent the border – the ABF are there and ready to stop them. We will continue to work with our partners to smash this criminal activity – every seizure no matter how big or small can save lives and put a dent into organised crime."