The shocking tactics the head of a drug syndicate used to rake in his debts have been revealed to a court.
The shocking tactics the head of a drug syndicate used to rake in his debts have been revealed to a court.

Drug kingpin used enforcers to chase down debts

A Queensland drug kingpin who ran a sophisticated methamphetamine racket encouraged his "agents" to use violence to chase down thousands of dollars in drug debts, a court has been told.

Facing serious debts in his business, Joshua Mark Cowan would resort to violence when chasing what was owed, even counselling others to commit crimes to repay the debts.

Family and supporters, including his wife of two years, broke down in tears on Tuesday upon learning the Brisbane man would spent 11.5 years behind bars for his offending.

Joshua Mark Cowan (pictured) employed several agents to help distribute methylamphetamine across the Brisbane region between January and October 2018.
Joshua Mark Cowan (pictured) employed several agents to help distribute methylamphetamine across the Brisbane region between January and October 2018.

Dressed in a crumpled grey suit and pink shirt, Cowan pleaded guilty in Brisbane Supreme Court to six charges, including trafficking, supplying and possessing dangerous drugs, possessing property obtained from drug trafficking and entering premises and committing an indictable offence by break.

The court was told Cowan, 31, was the apex of the drug syndicate and had several field agents who would distribute methamphetamine across the Brisbane region between January and October 2018.

The group would use encrypted apps such as Snapchat to prevent police from discovering their messages.

Crown prosecutor Jennifer O'Brien said the syndicate supplied over 5kg of methamphetamine to at least 43 customers.

Despite raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars, Cowan was still owed significant debts by multiple customers.

Ms O'Brien said Cowan would use violence to enforce drug debts and counselled his field agents to do the same.

The court was told Cowan (pictured) encouraged his “employers” to use violence while chasing thousands of dollars’ worth of drug debts.
The court was told Cowan (pictured) encouraged his “employers” to use violence while chasing thousands of dollars’ worth of drug debts.

 

"He was responsible for a large-scale distribution of methamphetamine to the community," Ms O'Brien said.

"The defendant also boasted about assaulting people when he was obtaining outstanding debts.

"It's not a person merely feeding an addiction; there is a clear commercial element."

Ms O'Brien said the profits were unclear but a financial analysis unearthed more than $131,000 of unsourced income arriving in his account during the time.

She estimated up to $702,000 was owed in debts.

At times Cowan would handle the drugs from his home, storing them in unusual places like his letterbox.

In October 2018, police executed a search warrant at Cowan's home, locating cash and several cars he had bought with the proceeds from his trafficking business.

He was also charged with supplying small amounts of cannabis on two occasions in March and April.

Mr O'Brien said Cowan had also taken part in breaking into a vet surgery at Bli Bli on the Sunshine Coast with co-offenders in May 2018.

She said Cowan walked the co-offender through the break-in, helping him steal a safe, a number of painkiller drugs and cash.

Justice Peter Callaghan said the offending was not disorganised as Cowan was able to hide his messages from authorities.

He ultimately imposed a head sentence of 11.5 years' jail.

"You might want to think about the effect of your offending on other people's children," Justice Callaghan said.

"As someone who says they've been addicted to this substance you must understand the sort of misery it creates in the community."


Cowan's defence barrister Tom Polley said his client was exposed to alcohol abuse as a child but still had a stable upbringing.

As a teenager he became exposed to drugs and started experimenting with MDMA and amphetamines.

Mr Polley said Cowan was "handy" in the mechanic trade despite not being qualified, and had turned to old habits after his relationship with his ex-partner broke down in 2017.

He said the on-again, off-again relationship with drugs became a major problem after that.

Mr Polley said his use escalated to using about 2g of methamphetamine a day during the trafficking period.

Originally published as Drug kingpin used enforcers to chase down debts


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