A depressed and bullied teen who grew into a dark web drug kingpin will serve at least 10 years in prison for his crimes.
Cody Ward, 27, was sentenced in the NSW District Court on Friday over a sophisticated drug business he ran from his small-town home on the state's south coast.
Several of the importation and distribution charges he pleaded guilty to carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Judge Robyn Tupman said Ward had "excellent" prospects of rehabilitation as she sentenced him to 14 years in total, with a 10-year non-parole period backdated to his February 2019 arrest.
Ward was a social outcast as a teenager, bullied at school for his social awkwardness and obesity.
He withdrew from the community and became reclusive and socially isolated as he retreated into online gaming in his teen years, Judge Tupman said.
He started using drugs as a way to self-medicate for his depression and social anxiety, and found acceptance among drug users he had not found at school.
He adopted an alter ego of a cybercriminal drug dealer as he played Grand Theft Auto. In real life, he developed a "very serious" addiction to drugs including heroin.
An obsession with the internet led to him buying drugs online, then eventually starting up his own online marketplace called NSWGreat in about 2011.
"It provided him with a sense of community that he did not otherwise have," the judge said.
While he earned money from the business, he was more motivated to gain notoriety online for his abilities to use the encrypted dark web and cryptocurrencies.
In August 2018, just four months before his arrest, he boasted in an interview with news.com.au that he would not be caught.
But police proved him wrong when they swooped on his Callala Bay home in February 2019.
Between December 2015 and January 2019 he completed more than 10,500 successful transactions, buying and selling cocaine, LSD, MDMA, meth and other drugs. He used a web of fake identities and PO boxes.
Ward did not think about the moral implications of bringing large quantities of drugs into the community when he was running the business, Judge Tupman found.
But he's since reckoned with what he's done and is genuinely remorseful, she said.
He is physically transformed after losing 25 kilograms in prison and going cold turkey on drugs.
He is attending church regularly in prison and the chaplain wrote a letter in his support. He also obtained certificates and is doing work.
"He is likely to continue to improve while he remains in jail, undertaking the work that he is doing" to rehabilitate, the judge found.
The earliest he'll be free to walk out of prison is in 2029.
Australian Associated Press