By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A Narre Warren man with a cache of high-powered guns under his bed claims he sold drugs to recoup $900,000 lost in a loan scam.
Ben Joe Cao, 32, who grew up in Dandenong, pleaded guilty in the Victorian County Court to trafficking ice and heroin as well as possessing a trafficable amount of guns.
During a police intercept, Cao was carrying six packets of meth – each weighing one ounce – as well as $9466 and three mobile phones on an unregistered motorbike on Pound Road in late 2019.
His home was raided by police members, who seized five unregistered guns from under his bed.
The weapons were two semi-automatic pistols, a six-shot revolver, and two pump-action rifles.
Police also found an unregistered, home-made 12-gauge shotgun in pieces in Cao’s wardrobe, as well as knuckledusters, numerous rounds of ammunition and gun parts.
An ounce of heroin was found in his dresser, and a further ounce of ‘ice’ in the garage.
In total, police seized 192.5 grams of “high purity” meth – a commercially trafficable amount divided into seven lots of one-ounce packages, sentencing judge Carolene Gwynn noted on 27 July.
“It is trite to say it is extremely serious offending.”
Prosecutors, however, conceded there was no further evidence that Cao was dealing. There were no tick-lists or messages to suggest he was trading drugs.
The long-term drug and gambling addict claimed he had wanted to recoup more than $900,000 lost in an elaborate loan scam.
A so-called businessman absconded with money acquired from Cao and his relative’s properties. The victims were left with “considerable” debts.
However, Judge Gwynne also noted that Cao was also using drugs at the time of his trafficking.
The accused had claimed he had a fascination for guns.
He’d started to collect martial arts weapons as a response to school bullying.
They made him feel “cool and powerful”, and later made him feel more secure in a “child-like” way, according to a psychologist’s report.
There was no evidence that Cao had plans to commit violent offending, Judge Gwynn noted.
Cao’s remorse, early plea of guilty and limited criminal record were also noted.
In custody, he’d developed a “genuine” adherence to Christianity and completed an array of rehabilitative courses.
Cao was jailed for up to four years and two months – including 624 days already served in pre-sentence custody.
He will be eligible for parole after two years and four months.