Eight people have been charged, including four men from Cobar, two men and a woman from Hillston, and one man from Mount Hope, over alleged drug and rural crime offences in a joint operation between Police from Western and Southern Regions.
According to a NSW Police Statement, in May 2021, detectives from Central North Police District Criminal Investigation Team established Strike Force Greeve to investigate the supply of prohibited drugs and rural crime-related offences in the Cobar and surrounding areas.
“Strike Force Gunbower was subsequently established by Murrumbidgee Police District in December last year, to investigate the alleged supply of prohibited drugs – namely methylamphetamine and cannabis – in the Hillston area,” the statement said.
“Investigators from Central North and Murrumbidgee then combined forces to investigate alleged rural crime offences – in particular, the theft and illegal sale of goats, as well as drug supply, and the unlawful sale of firearms – occurring on the border of the two police districts.
“Following extensive inquiries, PolAir conducted aerial searches of several properties on Wednesday, 20 April 2022. The search covered 120,000 acres across Bundure, and Kidman Way at Mount Hope, Illawong and Landervale, locating approximately 700 goats, which police will allege were unlawfully obtained. Amongst the herd, police identified Boer goats, which are domestically bred.
“The goats were seized and if owners can be identified, they will be returned to them.”
Strike force officers, assisted by Central North Police Districts, Proactive Crime Team, Criminal Investigation Team, Rural Crime Prevention Team and General Duties officers, executed simultaneous search warrants at properties in Cobar, while officers attached to Murrumbidgee Police District – with assistance from Southern Region Operational Support Group (OSG), and the Dog Unit, executed search warrants at Hillston and Mount Hope, from 8.30am on Thursday, 21 April, arresting eight people.
“At four properties in Cobar, officers seized methylamphetamine, cannabis plants, cannabis leaf, prescription medication, drug paraphernalia, property suspected of being stolen, and liquid believed to be GHB,” the NSW Police statement continued.
“At a Hillston property, officers seized methylamphetamine, cannabis, ammunition, and more than $7,000 cash.
“A 36-year-old Cobar man was charged with 12 counts of supply prohibited drug, six counts take part supply prohibited drug, eight counts of deal with property proceeds of crime, five counts of supply prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis, larceny, damage property by fire/explosion, two counts of possess prohibited drug, cultivate prohibited plant, and knowingly direct activities of criminal group.
“A second Cobar man, aged 36, was charged with take part and supply prohibited drug.
“A 39-year-old Cobar man was charged with four counts of supply prohibited drug, deal with property proceeds of crime and possess prohibited drug.
“All three were refused bail to appear at Bourke Local Court on Friday 22 April 2022.
“A 50-year-old Cobar man was charged with participate criminal group, contribute criminal activity, take part supply prohibited drug, two counts of supply prohibited drug, goods in personal custody suspected being stolen, possess prohibited drug and cultivate prohibited plant.
“He was granted conditional bail to appear at Cobar Local Court on Tuesday, 24 May 2022.
“A 57-year-old Hillston man was charged with eleven offences, including: Supply prohibited drug (x2), Supply prohibited drug – indictable quantity (x2), Participate criminal group contribute criminal activity (x2), Acquire firearm without licence or permit – pistol, Possess ammunition without holding licence/permit/authority, Possess prohibited drug (x2), and, Recklessly deal with proceeds of crime.
“He was refused bail and appeared in Griffith Local Court on Friday, 22 April 2022, where he was formally denied bail to reappear in the same court on Wednesday 11 May 2022.
“A 38-year-old Hillston woman was charged with supply prohibited drug (knowingly take part) and granted bail to appear in Griffith Local Court on Wednesday, 22 June 2022.
“Police attended a second property in Hillston about 9.30am and spoke with a 28-year-old man. He was arrested and taken to Hillston Police Station where he was charged with supply firearm to person unauthorised to possess it.
“It will be alleged in court the man facilitated the supply four pistols, when he is not licenced to do so.
“The Hillston man was granted bail to appear in Griffith Local Court on Wednesday, 25 May 2022. His firearms licence was also suspended.
“A 33-year-old man was arrested at a property at Mount Hope and taken to Hillston Police Station where he was charged with participate criminal group, contribute criminal activity, and two counts of recklessly deal with proceeds of crime.
“Police will allege in court the man was involved in the theft and unlawful sale of goats.
“The Mount Hope man was granted conditional bail to appear in Griffith Local Court on Wednesday, 25 May 2022. His firearms licence was also suspended.
Murrumbidgee Police District Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Eugene Stek, said rural crime in New South Wales is a significant issue and has a huge economic impact.
“It’s costing millions – not only in the theft of stock, but through the theft of other farming equipment, fuel and machinery, damaged fences, loss of income and it also introduces biosecurity risks.” Det Insp Stek explained.
“What police will allege occurred here is that the goats were stolen from several properties and sold illegally. Those who we allege are involved, believed they were operating undetected.
“Western and Southern Region removed the district boundaries to work together to disrupt and take down this alleged syndicate. Farmers are the backbone of our country; this joint resolution shows that police will come at rural crime and drug offenders from all angles, and deal with them under the full force of the law.”
Inquiries under Strike Force Greeve and Strike Force Gunbower continue.