A 65-year-old unemployed Warrawong cancer sufferer who supplied heroin and crystal meth to his neighbours – sometimes in exchange for sexual favours – used the cash profits from his illegal business to become a high roller at Star Casino and buy the services of prostitutes.
Detectives monitored Elefterios ‘Terry’ Skoumbourdis for five months in 2016, secretly recording him as he carried out dozens of small-scale drug deals, sometimes several in a day, from his humble Housing Commission flat in Illawong Gardens.
Using a mix of undercover police, telephone intercepts and physical surveillance, police discovered Skoumbourdis was part of a five-man drug dealing syndicate which included Tony Jovanovski, the upline heroin supplier; Darryl Jones, the primary contact for buyers; Mark Jullian, one of Jones’ regulars; and Kevin Stewart, who sourced the crystal meth (also known as ‘ice’).
The enterprise had a loyal following among the suburb’s drug users, described in court as “desperate people in desperate times”.
In fact, some were so desperate they resorted to paying Skoumbourdis in sexual favours when their cash ran out. He also allowed his buyers to shoot up in his house if they wished, sometimes even assisting them in their efforts to get high.
The familiarity of the operation prompted Judge Andrew Haesler to suggest Skoumbourdis had positioned himself as the “friendly neighbourhood drug dealer”.
“It was an organised little operation but it wasn’t large scale by any means,” he said.
“His business was the equivalent to the corner store, he wasn’t running a supermarket.”
What was considerable by all accounts however, was Skoumbourdis’ penchant for gambling.
He told a psychologist that trauma from his childhood in Greece, then a horror few years spent in Africa with his brother’s family, had led to him becoming an anxious adult.
That anxiety went through the roof when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2016. He said he began smoking heroin to calm his nerves and increased the amount he gambled, which he claimed helped distract him from his worries.
Records from The Star, obtained by police, show Skoumbourdis was wagering about $30,000 a month in cash at the casino during 2016, splitting his time between poker machines and gaming tables.
He was a certified platinum member (one under the invite-only diamond membership) and often stayed at the venue using ‘points’ acquired through his betting.
Any money left over after the gambling was done went to pay for prostitutes – a final hurrah to a life he thought was very quickly coming to an end.
But Skoumbourdis is still here: he’s now clear of cancer after surgery was a success, and while he still suffers from a number of health issues, he’s the healthiest he’s been in a long time.
So he must now face the consequences of his illegal behaviour. And it’s a matter that’s been playing on his mind as he whiles away the hours inside his jail cell awaiting sentence.
“I have for most of my life lived a lawful and responsible existence in society,” he said in a handwritten letter tendered in court.
“I’m ashamed I let down my family when I have always opposed the use of drugs and educated my children accordingly.
“I sincerely and honestly regret this decision and wish to be given the opportunity to show you Honour, the court and my family that I will not transgress again.”
Skoumbourdis will be sentenced on December 11.