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Australian Storage Unit Drug Trafficker Denied Bail

Supreme Court Justice David Beach ruled that a suspected drug dealer did not fit the conditions for an allowed bail. The suspect, 26-year-old Paul Schembri from the Melbourne suburb of Parkdale, allegedly operated a “mini drug office” from inside a rented storage units.

Australian police raided Schembri’s “dark web offices” in October after building a solid case against the man. He had rented two storage facilities under his fiance’s name for storing and packaging drugs. The court called the storage units “small-scale distribution centers.” His entire plan—or possibly life—they called “sophisticated and devious.”

Schembri’s lifestyle did little to reassure the court that Schembri had “exceptional circumstances” to justify bail. The court viewed the man’s fake IDs and second life as warnings of an epic flight risk. At the first hearing on the matter, Senior Constable Schmidt from Caulfield’s Divisional Response Unit told Melbourne Magistrates’ court that Schembri faced serious charges, had overseas connections, and had the ability to make fake identity documents and licenses. Schmidt recommended the court deny bail.

Melbourne Magistrates’ court heard how Schembri used an online supplement business as a cover for his main source of income. He used fake identities to open credit cards, bank accounts, and PO boxes. At the storage units, police found licenses with Schembri’s picture under the names “Jack Clark” and “Edward Barnes.” At the first hearing, Magistrate Peter Mealy asked, “why [would] someone need so many identities?” The Magistrate added that Schembri had refused to cooperate with investigators and that his refusal to reveal his passwords was a “red flag.”

Australian authorities seized methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, GHB, and various prescription medications at Schembri’s storage units. His PO boxes has packages of drugs sitting in them at the time of his arrest. Police officers also confiscated electronic devices from the storage units and/or Schembri’s person. Senior Constable Schmidt said he “believed the digital devices [would] expose further evidence of drug trafficking.”

At the time of his arrest, Schembri faced a total of 21 drug importation, distribution, and fraud charges. Schmidt expected additional charges to stick after the police finished their investigation. Additionally, the police had not yet finished testing the seized substances; the findings could result in additional charges.

Schembri’s defense counsel argued that the numerous delays in the case meant that Schembri could sit in jail for an extended period of time while waiting for his next court appearance. The defendant’s family was willing to provide support and surety. His fiance, who had also been questioned by the police for suspected involvement, appeared in court to show her support. Even one of Schembri’s childhood friends supported him by offering a $50,000 guarantee. None of the apparent signs of good faith convinced Supreme Court Justice David Beach that Schembri deserved bail. Schembri will sit in jail until his next court appearance in 2018.

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