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The Bruce Highway feeds our seedy underbelly

The Bruce Highway feeds our seedy underbelly

THE Bruce Highway regularly hits the headlines for undesirable reasons but its even more sinister use might be lesser known.

The goods moving along Queensland's most important trade route are not always above board.

The bitumen stretching between Mackay and the Gold Coast regularly transports high-purity drugs from the south-east corner to the state's north.

Those drug runners often drive through the day and night to pick up or drop off a package with barely a break.

Frank Harold Voss, from Mackay, and Garry Charles Burt Owen, from South Mackay, are two such couriers.

Documents before Queensland Supreme Court reveal that after spending between 11 and 37 minutes with their alleged Gold Coast supplier David John Kurtzman, Voss and Owen would often turn around and drive back.

A return trip between the two cities takes roughly 24 hours.

But they were not alone.

Runners, such as Kevin Richard Bailey, deliver drugs from the Gold Coast to sell throughout the Airlie Beach and Whitsunday areas.

Leon Gary Cremor allegedly received some of those deliveries.

Bailey, a New Zealand national likely to be deported after serving time for his role, was offered $1000 to courier drugs - including six ounces (170g) of meth worth between $78,000 and $90,000 - for a major Gold Coast drug dealer.

Those are just some of the forfeiture cases being considered in the supreme court right now.

The State Government is seeking to seize cash and assets from Voss, Kurtzman, Cremor and Bailey under the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act.

But it's the tale of their alleged drug operations that unravel within those court files that make the most interesting reading.

What the State Government could seize from these people.
What the State Government could seize from these people.

HOW MELINDA SLINGSBY'S ADULT SEX SHOP AND HER BOYFRIEND MICHAEL TYSON FIT IN

It all begins with Operation Lima Variety, a police sting set up in December 2013 to investigate dangerous drugs in the Mackay and Sarina regions.

Police specifically targeted members and associates of the Mackay Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.

The investigation included tactical interceptions, covert physical surveillance, telecommunications interception warrants and a covert police officer.

Voss, the primary target, supplied amphetamines to an undercover cop 12 times between June 24, 2014, and March 13, 2015.

The drug deals ranged from 7g at $1500 to 14g at $1800 or $2000.

During the surveillance period, police totalled $21,500 in drug deals for 148g of amphetamine and nine ecstasy pills.

Voss, a Vietnam veteran, told the covert police officer he had sourced drugs from his Gold Coast supplier for 18 months.

He and Owen were making return trips every two to three weeks from Mackay to the Gold Coast - completing 18 trips during the operation.

It did not take long for police to ascertain these trips were drug supply runs.

Taskforce Maxima officers set up surveillance on the Gold Coast and saw Voss and Owen visit Burleigh Bars, a custom motorcycle handlebars and accessory business next door to the then Black Uhlans outlaw motorcycle gang clubhouse in Burleigh Heads.

 

Inside the Gold Coast Black Uhlans clubhouse during Operation Variety police raids.
Inside the Gold Coast Black Uhlans clubhouse during Operation Variety police raids. QPS

Documents filed in Brisbane Supreme Court show the government is seeking to seize about $360,000 in assets from Kurtzman, who has pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and is awaiting trial.

The Burleigh Bars property is among Kurtzman's assets frozen until court proceedings finalise.

An affidavit from Taskforce Maxima police officer Brooke Williams details intercepted telephone conversations captured during Operation Lima Variety.

"In the early stages of Lima Variety, police intelligence holdings identified Kurtzman as a member of the Black Uhlans OMCG Gold Coast chapter. In a subsequent telephone conversation, Kurtzman self-identified as the president of the Black Uhlans," the document read.

 

Gold Coast Black Uhlans president David John Kurtzman.
Gold Coast Black Uhlans president David John Kurtzman. CH7/Courier Mail

Police allege Voss and Owen were regularly meeting Kurtzman to collect drugs on those Gold Coast trips.

Court documents say the men would sometimes take female companions, suggesting at least one of them concealed the drugs in their genitals, a technique described as "banking".

One intercept reveals they would pay Julie to "hide some stuff in ya pussy".

"Julie could manage that, it's not the first time she has had to do it, as long as it's not eight tonnes [both laugh] - Julie agrees," the transcript reads.

Through QPS investigations, Mr Williams said he could "reasonably suspect Mr Kurtzman was supplying Mr Owen and Mr Voss with (amphetamine)".

When Operation Lima Variety ended, police executed more than 25 warrants across Mackay and the Gold Coast.

 

Long arm rifles seized during Operation Variety police drug raids in Greenmount, Mackay.
Long arm rifles seized during Operation Variety police drug raids in Greenmount, Mackay. QPS

Voss and Owen, who pleaded guilty to trafficking and other drug-related offences, have been sentenced to jail, for five and four years respectively, for their roles in the drug world.

Mackay Supreme Court heard during sentencing how Voss's partner, Elizabeth Jane McGrath, had committed suicide a month after he was imprisoned.

Kurtzman's file includes an affidavit detailing conversations with McGrath, who once supplied drugs to the undercover officer when Voss was in hospital.

Mr Williams said McGrath, 38, had known Voss for about 10 years and would usually see him daily, unless he went "away fishing or something".

"I first met Frank at a Rebels bike show in Mackay. We became close friends from that time. My dad is a Vietnam veteran and so is Frank and my dad and Frank also became very good friends as well," she told police.

"I suffer from depression and Frank has helped get me through my illness."

She told police she became aware Voss was using amphetamines about six to eight months after meeting him, and she would sometimes indulge as well.

McGrath, a single mother of one, told police she met "Kurtzo" when he took her down to the Gold Coast for a Black Uhlans bike show five years before Voss' arrest in May 2015.

She said she would sometimes drive or fly to the Gold Coast with Voss and had become suspicious "that Mr Voss was coming down to see Kurtzo to collect drugs".

"She knew that Mr Voss was doing the trips to collect drugs but she never saw any drugs or carried any drugs for Mr Voss," Mr Williams said in his affidavit.

Police did two Bruce Highway tactical intercepts during the operation.

Sunshine Coast officers pulled Owen over near Forest Glen just after 7am on his return to Mackay with his teenage daughter, finding a sandwich bag containing 28g of meth with 27% purity inside the pocket of some jeans in a bag.

On the last run McGrath did with Voss, police found amphetamines in her handbag when they stopped them near Tiaro, between Maryborough and Gympie, on their way south. They continued to the Gold Coast.

The documents reveal Voss told the covert cop how his "friend" was caught with an ounce of amphetamine but Voss's four ounces went undetected hidden in the spare wheel.

Ms McGrath died on or about August 1, 2015.

Ecstasy tablets seized during Operation Variety police drug raids in Mackay and the Gold Coast.
Ecstasy tablets seized during Operation Variety police drug raids in Mackay and the Gold Coast. QPS

Cremor was arrested for drug trafficking in Operation Lima Quiz, a police sting set up to target drug trafficking in the Whitsundays.

He was granted $50,000 bail to live with his parents at a cattle farm at Morinish near Rockhampton and is listed for sentence in Brisbane Supreme Court on March 23.

Restraining orders were made on Cremor's property, including more than $18,000 now held by Queensland's Public Trustee, last year.

Police used tracking devices on two cars to chart Cremor's movements as well as physical surveillance, tactical intercepts, search warrants, undercover officers and phone taps.

On one mobile phone, there were 18,773 communications with more than 150 telecommunications services intercepted.

Once a second mobile was identified, police captured another 1518 communications and intercepted 100 of them.

Court documents seeking to seize his property allege Cremor sold $53,600 worth of drugs to an undercover police officer between November 2014 to April 2015.

The drugs allegedly included meth, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and tryptamine.

In March 2015, police learned a shipment was on the way from the Gold Coast to Airlie Beach on an overnight run.

Police allege he met Bailey at a car park opposite Shingley Beach Resort at Cannonvale.

"Mr Bailey was observed removing a suitcase from the boot of his vehicle and placing it in the front passenger seat of the vehicle Mr Cremor was driving," Mr Williams said in an affidavit before the court.

"A short time later Mr Bailey was observed to remove the same suitcase from the passenger seat of Mr Cremor's vehicle and place it in the boot of his car."

Police then intercepted Bailey on the Bruce Highway at Proserpine and found four one-pound cryovac bags of marijuana, 850 green and gold coloured bricks, believed to be ecstasy, and $67,000.

When he was sentenced to four years jail in June, the court heard Bailey had transported six ounces of methylamphetamine, worth between $78,000 and $90,000, for a major Gold Coast drug dealer.

The court heard he either did not hand over the marijuana and pills to Cremor or had been taking them back to the Gold Coast when police pulled him over.

Mr Williams, in an affidavit for confiscation proceedings, alleged Cremor used a number of properties to store his drugs to avoid having them in his possession.

Police also allege Cremor used another man to buy jewellery and other expensive items for him - including a 2014 Ducati Monster Motorcycle worth more than $15,000.

Cremor was a watch man - with a Google search on the brands revealing the watches police seized - from his wrist and home at Cannonvale - could range in value from about $10,000 up to about $45,000.

His reckoning came on May 28, 2015, just a few days before Voss and Owen unravelled, when he allegedly organised $120,000 worth of marijuana and $160,000 worth of methylamphetamines for the undercover cop.

After arranging to meet in a room at the Island Hotel in Jubilee Pocket, Cremor allegedly showed the covert officer 16 bags of methylamphetamine and three plastic garbage bags containing marijuana.

A Special Emergency Response Team pounced when he returned to his car to collect the rest of the pot.

Analysis revealed the haul included one pound of white crystals (454g) and 21 cryovac bags of marijuana weighing 30 pounds (13.6kg).

At the close of the operations, Taskforce Maxima Commander Michael Niland said bikie gangs continued to be threat to the community.

"OMCGs may not have the monopoly but they are major shareholders in the trafficking of drugs and this brings misery to our community," he said.

 

Hydroponic marijuana growing at a Gold Coast house, discovered during Operation Variety raids.
Hydroponic marijuana growing at a Gold Coast house, discovered during Operation Variety raids. QPS

Why drug dealer assets are frozen

The main objective of the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act is to remove the financial gain, and increase financial loss, associated with illegal activity. The laws are designed as disincentives to engage in crime for financial reasons.

The purpose of a restraining order is to preserve property - such as houses, cars, jewellery or cash - pending someone being convicted of serious drug crimes. This means the items restrained cannot be sold until a court makes a decision on property forfeiture. If they are sold, the Public Trustee of Queensland will hold the net proceeds.

If property is restrained, a person can apply to the court to exclude property from the restraining order, or from a forfeiture order.

Authorities do not need to show the property is derived from illegal activity to make a restraining order.

Trafficking in a dangerous drug constitutes a serious criminal offence, and therefore can be pursued under this act.

- ARM NEWSDESK