Eleven face court over Strike Force Worra drug raids in Wollongong

An 18-year-old boy boy, an expectant mother, disability pensioners and a Novotel chef were among a dozen people arrested in sweeping drug raids across the Illawarra on Tuesday.

All but one of those detained and questioned by police fronted Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday, each charged with a string of drug supply offences.

Sharni Mortenson, 23, Kylie Trevithick, 41, Tina Limond, 43, and Dewayne Knightley, 40, Shireen Gill, 42, and Rwhynica ‘James’ Ganwaye, 25, were all granted strict conditional bail.

Zoran Bimbilovski, 48, Noosha Kelso, 39, and Sarah Thompson, 30, applied for bail but had it refused after presiding magistrates Mark Douglass and Brett Thomas deemed them too much of a risk to be released.

The youngest man arrested, 18-year-old Jack Richardson, who is also facing the most serious charges, did not apply for bail and it was formally refused. 

Carl Young, 59, also declined to make an application and was remanded in custody.

Court documents reveal the six women and five men were arrested under the banner of Strike Force Worra, which was set up in October 2016 to target illegal drug activity in the Illawarra.

Police used a series of undercover operatives to make drug exchanges with those they believed were responsible for dealing in ice, cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy.

It is alleged the deals took place in carparks, outside fast food outlets, near shopping centres, in pubs and inside homes, including at Warrawong’s Illawong Gardens unit block on Northcliffe Drive. 

Covert and electronic surveillance including phone taps will form part of the evidence against those charged.

Police will allege Richardson, who lives in Mangerton, was monitored supplying a total of 270 grams of ecstasy on three different occasions in October and November.

Supported by his parents in court on Wednesday, Richardson told the court through his lawyer he would seek to find a place in a rehabilitation program for his own drug addiction issues.

Meantime, police allege Ganwaye, a chef at Pepe’s on the Beach, was caught selling small amounts of cocaine in plastic bags outside his workplace in November and December.

Ganwaye, who moved to Australia from Liberia 10 years ago, allegedly denied any knowledge of what was inside the bags when interviewed by police.

Mum-to-be Sharni Mortenson broke down in tears when police opposed her bail application.

Her lawyer argued she was “at the lower end of the [drug] chain” and had a nominal criminal record, earning her release.

Each of the cases will return to court in May.

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