A baby-faced IT whiz who masterminded a $17million drug ring on the dark web bragged in a news article three years ago he would be able to remain anonymous under the fake alias NSWGreat.
But Cody Ronald Ward’s luck ran out just six months later in February 2019 when he was arrested on the New South Wales south coast over the elaborate syndicate detectives described at the time as possibly the largest ever on the dark web in Australia.
Ward, 27, ‘fully expects’ to spend much of his life behind bars when he is sentenced in the NSW District Court on Friday.
His childhood friend Shanese Koullias, 24, and her sister Patricia Koullias, 22, have already been sentenced over their involvement in the syndicate.
Ward operated under the pseudonym NSWGreat since 2011 and gave an anonymous interview to a news outlet boasting of his drug syndicate in August 2018.
Cody Ronald Ward (pictured) will be sentenced on Friday over an elaborate $17million drug ring he masterminded on the dark web – after boasting over it in a news article
‘I’m confident in my ability to stay anonymous as “NSWGreat”,’ he was quoted as saying in the article, according to the agreed facts of the legal case.
The court previously heard Ward operated the drug syndicate on the dark web from a Callala Bay home over the course of four years, specialising in LSD, ecstasy, MDMA and amphetamines.
Before his arrest, Ward regularly boasted about his lavish lifestyle online and posted photos of himself with luxury sports cars such as a Maserati and Mercedes Benz.
Ward made more than 10,500 prohibited drug transactions on the ‘Dream Market’ marketplace, where he maintained a 4.94-star rating, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
He set up postal boxes in several Wollongong suburbs for his drug consignments under the aliases ‘Luke Denison’ and ‘Angus Harris’.
He also received packages at post offices across the state’s southern region under the names William Taylor, Ryan Print, Jackson Abbey, Oliver White and George Smith.
Sisters Shanese Koullias, 24, (right) and Patricia Koullias (left) have already been sentenced over their part in the drug syndicate
Ward imported 1.65kg of MDMA, 1.9kg of amphetamines, 88,308 tabs of LSD, 17.6g of oxycodone tablets and 66.69g of cocaine, according to the facts tendered to the court.
He then took the drugs to childhood friend Shanese Koullias at a Callala Bay unit where they were stored and packaged before updating the stock on his ‘NSWGreat’ page.
Police told the court ‘NSWGreat’ had been in operation since 2011 using five marketplace platforms on the dark web which could only be accessed via a special browser.
Ward declined to be interviewed when police arrested him but told them where to find a number of driver’s licenses in the bedroom of his Callala Beach rented home- and keys in the garage of his parents’ nearby home.
Cody Ronald Ward (pictured) operated under the pseudonym NSWGreat and once bragged the alias would protect his identity
The items linked Ward to post office boxes where millions of dollars’ worth of drugs were sent in envelopes, including those which arrived after ‘mail stoppers’ were put on Ward’s aliases.
The imported prohibited substances revealed ‘identical purity readings, textures and appearance’, the facts state.
Shanese Koullias, 24, and sister Patricia Koullias, 22, were also arrested at the time and have since been sentenced for drug supply offences.
Patricia Koullias was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 22 months.
Shanese Koullias is serving a maximum of eight years behind bars with a non-parole period of five years, and is first eligible for parole in February 2024.
Ward has pleaded guilty to three counts of importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs and three counts of large commercial drug supply – each carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Code Ronald Ward was arrested after police searched his rented Callala Beach home (pictured) in February 2019
Ward told the sentencing hearing he expected to spend a ‘large chunk’ of his life behind bars.
Ward created several alter egos while gaming online and later stumbled into the drug market, where he found a sense of ‘community, purpose, social acceptance and friends.
‘In real life, I was a loser… nobody cared to talk to me… everybody looked down on me,’ he told the court in November.
‘Online everyone looked up to me… everyone would talk to me.’
Ward added he didn’t take the alleged drug syndicate very seriously because he ‘used to role play as a drug trafficker’ while playing video games as a teenager.
‘I used to get very involved in role play games where you would get deeply involved into a character like you would as an actor,’ he told the court.
Cody Ronald Ward (pictured) has pleaded guilty to six charges, which all carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment