Undercover drug op leads to sugar bust instead of cocaine

 

The scene inside the Strathfield Plaza car park had all the hallmarks of an undercover sting.

Two Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers posing as buyers with a suitcase with $1.5 million in cash, and a sports bag full of plastic-wrapped blocks allegedly brought to the meeting.

But it ended like a Hollywood movie with an alleged attempt to pass off 15kg of sugar as cocaine, a runaway suspect and police opening fire in the car park.

Three Colombian nationals faced court on Saturday charged with commercial drug supply following a two-month investigation that dramatically concluded on Friday night.

The crime scene at Strathfield Plaza on Friday night after three men were arrested in AFP drug operation. Picture: Jeremy Piper
The crime scene at Strathfield Plaza on Friday night after three men were arrested in AFP drug operation. Picture: Jeremy Piper

It is understood the men were not charged with drug possession because while the haul was purported to be cocaine, it was sugar.

Police allege the men had agreed to sell the undercover officers 15kg of cocaine. Picture: Toby Zerna
Police allege the men had agreed to sell the undercover officers 15kg of cocaine. Picture: Toby Zerna


According to a statement of police facts, the job began in May when the AFP received information that a well established Colombian drug cartel was controlling large amounts of cocaine in Sydney.

In June, an undercover police officer communicated with Jose Moreno Gomez, 50, - known as the "translator" - on encrypted messaging.

One of the suspects fled in a ute after meeting undercover officers at this car. Picture: Toby Zerna
One of the suspects fled in a ute after meeting undercover officers at this car. Picture: Toby Zerna

Police allege at a later meeting, the undercover officer was shown a photo on a phone of five one kilogram blocks purported to be cocaine.

It is alleged the undercover officer and Jhonattan Giraldo Moreno, 28, negotiated the purchase of cocaine for $131,000 per kilogram.

Earlier this month, the undercover met face-to-face with Gomez and Moreno and allegedly provided the officer with a small cocaine sample.

Three Colombian nationals were arrested after the operation on Friday night. Picture: Toby Zerna
Three Colombian nationals were arrested after the operation on Friday night. Picture: Toby Zerna

Over the following two weeks, the undercover officer and the Colombian allegedly negotiated the purchase of 15kg of cocaine for $1.5 million.

An AFP officer was hit by a car and another opened fire during the dramatic drug operation. Picture: Toby Zerna
An AFP officer was hit by a car and another opened fire during the dramatic drug operation. Picture: Toby Zerna

The date and location for the alleged deal was set - July 25 on the rooftop level of the Strathfield Plaza car park.

Two undercover officers arrived just before 5pm with $1.5 million in cash in a black suitcase in the boot of their car.


The facts state Moreno spoke to one of the undercover officers and "expressed annoyance" that there were two buyers at the transaction rather than one.

Moreno left the conversation before returning shortly after with Gomez.

They glanced at the cash in the boot of the officers' car while William David Franco Riano, 22, stood nearby with a black sports bag over his shoulder.

Moreno, according to the police facts, later told police he had decided to sell the undercover officer sugar to make some money.

After glancing inside the bag and spotting the blocks wrapped in plastic, the police officers arrested Gomez and Riano.

Lawyer Fadi Abbas represented one of the accused at Parramatta Bail Court on Saturday. Picture: News Corp
Lawyer Fadi Abbas represented one of the accused at Parramatta Bail Court on Saturday. Picture: News Corp

Two tactical police officers emerged on the scene and attempted to arrest Moreno, who was behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Triton.

It is alleged Moreno accelerated and hit one officer, who rolled off the bonnet and hit the ground.

Moreno then allegedly drove at a second officer, who opened fire at the car.

The ute then ploughed through a closed boom gate, onto the footpath outside, sped through a red light and disappeared.

Police found Moreno less than an hour later near the mens' apartment in Homebush.

The trio appeared briefly before Parramatta Bail Court on Saturday charged with commercial drug supply.

Moreno's lawyer Fadi Abbas indicated a bail application would be made next week.

The facts detail how Moreno and Gomez allegedly both told police during the interview that the sports bag was packed with sugar.

It was unclear on Saturday whether the substance had been tested.

AFP raided the men's apartment on Friday night and allegedly located sugar cubes, a small amount of cocaine, a saw and bundles of $50 notes.

The case was adjourned to Burwood Local Court in September.

Originally published as Undercover drug op leads to sugar bust instead of cocaine



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