15-year sentence confirmed for cocaine-importing golf pro
DISGRACED Ballina golfer Damien Webber has failed to secure an early release from the Sydney jail where is serving 15 years for importing almost $1 million of cocaine from Costa Rica.
The golf professional was arrested by Federal Police in 2010 after more than 3kg of cocaine was discovered in the engine of a golf buggy bound for the Mullumbimby Golf Course where Webber worked as an instructor.
The NSW Court of Appeal heard that after the discovery, Webber was placed under surveillance.
He was recorded telling his friend Peter Jones that he was "waiting on a few deliveries for the pro shop", a golfing reference which was later revealed to be code for the cocaine consignment.
Soon after, an AFP officer, posing as an Australian Post worker, phoned Webber to say the buggy, which was addressed to him, would need to be picked up from Sydney as it was leaking oil and could not be forwarded north.
In a panicked phone call with his partner, Webber was recorded telling her that he would have to pay someone to drive it back and that she should "stay cool" as he would "go hard and sweat" for both of them.
When Jones arrived at the Silverwater Post Office to pick up the buggy, only to be stopped by police, he insisted he had been sent there by Webber and was not aware of what was in it.
A search of Webber's property uncovered cocaine, cannabis and $93,000 in cash.
Webber denied having any knowledge of what was in the buggy but later pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of cocaine.
Before his arrest, Webber was well respected in the Northern Rivers community where he sponsored Webber's Week of Golf, hosted various tournaments and ran successful adult and junior clinics.
The Court of Appeal heard he was shunned by the local golfing fraternity after his dealings were exposed in local media reports.
He appealed the 15-year head sentence handed down in the Lismore District Court on the grounds the sentence was manifestly excessive and the judge had not considered whether he may have been subordinate to Jones.
The appeal panel noted that while it was likely Webber was not the only person who stood to gain from the importation and the evidence suggested he was in a joint venture with Jones "the overwhelming inference" was that Webber could not have been regarded as playing a "minor" role in an offence which can attract a maximum penalty of life behind bars.
Webber will be eligible for parole in 2026.