Landscaping supplier jailed for trying to get bricks
Timothy John Engstrom used to do cocaine at Christmas parties but will celebrate at least the next seven festive seasons in prison after trying to possess hundreds of kilograms of the drug.
The 38-year-old was sentenced to 11 years and six months with a non-parole period of seven years and six months after a Sydney jury found him guilty on one count of attempting to possess a border controlled drug.
He was motivated by financial struggles and some misguided loyalty to his close friend, business partner and co-offender Adam Hunter, Judge Gina O'Rourke said in the NSW District Court on Friday.
Hunter was jailed in 2021 for at least eight years on a total sentence of 12 years and nine months after pleading guilty to attempting to import the drugs inside an excavator shipped from South Africa.
The excavator was in poor condition, not operational, and cost significantly less than a working one would.
By the time it reached Bungendore Landscape Supplies in southern NSW, the trap was set.
Authorities had swapped out 384 plastic wrapped blocks containing 332.1 kilograms of cocaine with a purity of 83.1 per cent, found inside the boom arm of the excavator when it arrived at the border.
Engstrom spent two-and-a-half hours using an angle grinder in "a determined effort to gain access to the boom arm" on July 14, 2019, the judge said.
Two other people had declined to do it despite the financial reward offered.
Engstrom had earlier arranged to borrow scaffolding from his brother, sourced tools to cut into the excavator, discussed with Hunter how to avoid detection, and how to flee "if it all turns to s***".
It all turned "to s***" when surveilling police burst into the shed at the struggling landscaping supply business shortly after midday.
The pair did not make it to the two cars they'd parked nearby.
Arrested over the cocaine bust, Engstrom felt "numb".
He reported first trying cocaine in his 20s and said he used it at Christmas parties, but the judge found he did not have any major drug issues.
Engstrom said he believed he could avoid breaking the law by not asking any questions and assisted in accessing and unpacking the excavator to get it done as quickly as possible.
His sentence was backdated due to time already spent in custody and he will first be eligible for release on January 7, 2030.