The offer of a liver transplant for his mother who was dying of cancer in Colombia set Jesus Edelberto Diaz Hernandez on the path to importing and manufacturing over a kilo of cocaine in the garage of his Port Kembla home.
Hernandez, a triple Colombian, Spanish and Australian national was sentenced in Wollongong District Court on one charge of manufacturing a marketable quantity of cocaine and one charge of conspiring to import a marketable quantity of the same drug.
The court heard that prior to his mother's cancer diagnosis, the 43-year-old was a valued member of the community, who used his earnings as a tiler to support his family of four in Australia and send money home to Colombia.
However, his diagnosis in 2015 and subsequent struggle with the disease led him to turn the garage at his home into a rudimentary cocaine laboratory.
An unknown person offered to move Hernandez's mother up the list for a liver transplant, in return for Hernandez assisting in the import of cocaine to Australia.
Hernandez began to communicate with a person outside of Australia, only known as "J" and paid $2600 for a shipment of cocaine to be sent to his address.
This was sent in the form of 37 kilos of coffee, and Hernandez was given instructions on how to extract the substance from the coffee using equipment and chemicals including pool cleaner.
Hernandez was ultimately able to extract 1.16 kilograms of pure cocaine from the coffee shipment, and while there was no evidence that Hernandez ever onsold the product, a second shipment under a similar disguise was arranged.
This consignment never left South America, and was intercepted by Colombian authorities who tipped off their Australian counterparts.
In 2021, officers from the Australian Federal Police began investigating Hernandez and in September were issued a warrant to search Hernandez's address.
There they found packages of cocaine divided into clip-seal bags in an esky in the garage, as well as implements used by Hernandez to extract the cocaine.
AFP officers seized Hernandez's phone, where messages relating to the first shipment were uncovered, revealing Hernandez's role in importing and extracting the cocaine, before arresting him.
Defence barrister Tom Hughes said the circumstances surrounding the offending showed his client was not motivated by "greed".
"This was not an entry into an enterprise born of greed, but misplaced or misguided desperation to see his mother's condition improve," Mr Hughes said.
Judge Andrew Haesler accepted this, but questioned why once Hernandez had the drug - which would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if sold - he did not do anything with it, particularly as his mother was in such desperate need at the time.
"There is no indication in the agreed facts as to what was to be done with the manufactured product," Mr Haesler said. "Was it his after he extracted it, or was it the syndicate's?"
Prosecutor Scard for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said that Hernandez's role was likely similar to that of a franchisee, who paid a sum of money upfront for the product and instructions, and then was left to enjoy the benefits or profits.
"Here [there is] evidence of the offender making payment for the consignment," Mr Scard said.
Whatever Hernandez's role, Judge Haesler said his part was unsophisticated, with his address and a name similar to his on the consignments shipped to Australia, however the quantity of the drugs involved and the connection with an international syndicate made this a serous example of this type of offending.
With affidavits from Hernandez's ex-wife, family friends and members of the community in support, as well as Hernandez's time already spent in custody, Judge Haesler said that his prospects of rehabilitation were good and that the man was at a low risk of reoffending.
Judge Haesler sentenced Hernandez to a combined sentence of seven years and six months. With time already served, Hernandez will be eligible for parole from March 7, 2026.
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