Luke Wingate must have known he was busted the moment the cops doubled back on O’Reilly Street.
He had a wad of ice in his pocket and just happened to be in a known drug dealing hotspot in Warilla with a blue Holden Commodore that had attracted the attention of patrolling police.
Still, Wingate tried to play it cool, parking the car on the kerb, getting out and popping the bonnet to make himself look non-drug-related-busy.
As police approached Wingate, he made the split-second decision to cut and run.
He was chased down and caught moments later trying to vault a neighbour’s fence, he and the pursuing officer falling down in a heap during the arrest.
But Wingate was not ready to give up quite yet.
In an act of stupidity or desperation, it's hard to say which, Wingate shoved three bags of ice into his mouth.
It's unclear whether it was an attempt to hide or get rid of the evidence, but either way, it didn't work, prompting Wingate to begin rubbing the drugs into the dirt.
Officers were able to stop him and managed to retrieve the bags largely intact.
Between what was found on Wingate and inside his car, police seized a total of 43 grams of ice and $10,325 cash.
The ice was found to have a purity of 76 per cent, meaning it was probably destined to be “cut” with other substances before being sold off in smaller batches.
Wingate was charged with drug supply and dealing with proceeds of crime.
His sad history of personal drug abuse from a young age thanks to a wayward uncle was set out in Wollongong District Court on Friday.
“He was introduced to cannabis and methylamphetamine by his uncle between the ages of 14 and 16,” Wingate’s lawyer told the court.
Wingate went on to become addicted to heroin but had recently returned to ice use.
Judge Mark Marien said Wingate was part of a drug ring but he was unable to say what role he played in that ring, other than to say he obviously was “not a low level street dealer” given the quantity of drugs and cash he was found with.
Judge Marien also accepted that Wingate committed the crimes in part to support his own drug habit.
“This is a man whose offending is clearly linked to his drug addiction,” he said.
“That drug addiction clearly commenced when he was being supplied - very tragically one can only say - by his uncle. Inevitably he became addicted and his drug use escalates and became entrenched.”
Judge Marien sentenced Wingate to two and a half years jail, with a non-parole period of 17 months.
With time served he will be released on parole in August this year.