Buying cocaine ‘as popular as buying food or alcohol’,judge says

A Sydney judge says purchasing cocaine has become as popular as buying food and alcohol as he sentenced a dealer involved in an “Uber Eats” style drug delivery network.

Danny Watfa was on Thursday given a three-year sentence,with a non-parole period of a year and nine months,after he pleaded guilty to supplying drugs on an ongoing basis and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

The 26-year-old was arrested by tactical police in Greenacre in Sydney’s south-west in October 2020 having been involved in phone negotiations for cocaine deals often worth thousands of dollars.

Danny Watfa is arrested by police at a Greenacre property in October 2020.

Danny Watfa is arrested by police at a Greenacre property in October 2020.NSW Police

In handing down his sentence,Judge John Pickering,SC,said the operation used a business model “remarkably similar to a food or alcohol delivery”.

“The offender was involved in what was the large-scale sale of cocaine primarily around the inner-city area. He was having a significant impact on the ... supply of drugs in the city,” Pickering said.

“It reminds you of how many people in our society are buying cocaine ... it’s seemingly as popular as buying food or alcohol.”

Pickering said while demand for cocaine remained high,clamping down on its distribution was an “impossible battle for the government to win”. He said the sale of cocaine was a serious charge “no matter what people think about the legalisation of drugs”.

“That’s a debate not for this court,but for people in other places,” he said.

The judge said there were “runners” working under Watfa who delivered the drugs and who had already received sentences including jail terms.

He said Watfa had a “far greater depth and width of involvement” which justified a greater punishment.

“Using the Uber Eats model,it’s not always easy to work out where someone sits in the chain,” he said. “He[Watfa] was on the phone,he was the negotiator,he negotiated with people further up the chain than him.”

Although the charge of supplying a prohibited drug on an ongoing basis carries a maximum sentence of 20 years,Pickering said Watfa oversaw a “fairly small-time supply” which did not warrant a sentence at the higher end of the scale.

The judge said Watfa had a previous charge for supplying drugs but pointed to numerous health conditions including gastric sleeve surgery,his need for major dental work and addiction issues as factors that contributed to his downward spiral.

Pickering also said he accepted that COVID-19 had made Watfa’s time in custody more difficult and saw his desire to turn his life around and “tremendous family support” as factors that would make him a good prospect for rehabilitation.

He said reference letters from Watfa’s fiancee,family and community members spoke of someone who “kept many of his problems away from his family”.

“He clearly needs a longer time on parole in relation to his rehabilitation,” Pickering said.

Having remained in custody since his 2020 arrest,Watfa will be eligible for parole on July 14.

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Angus Thomson is a reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald.

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