How a Coast drug kingpin’s world came crashing down
EXCLUSIVE: He was a Sunshine Coast drug kingpin with direct access to outlaw motorbike gangs who seemed to have it all.
His wicked web spun from his Sunshine Beach luxury home across all corners of the state, including Toowoomba, the Gold Coast and Far North Queensland.
Future plans were being formulated to infiltrate Perth's drug market.
He was a top end player whose game was meth, cocaine, MDMA and weapons.
During the peak of his drug trafficking powers, Scott William Berns could move 1kg of meth a week which "conservative" estimations gave a street value between $100,000 and $200,000.
He spent his earnings on "bad investments" and "lifestyle" items: from hotted up sports cars, motorbikes and boats to funding the life of his girlfriend at the time.
That was until his kingdom came crashing down.
Berns was arrested in August 2016.
It was the result of an 11-month investigation by detectives from the Sunshine Coast Criminal Investigation Branch which also led to the arrest of 54 other people charged on more than 200 drug and weapons offences.
For the first time, the detectives who worked on bringing Berns to justice have detailed how they cracked Operation Oscar Octave and put away its kingpin.
OPERATION OSCAR OCTAVE
Detective Sergeant Craig Mansfield, who led the drug and serious crime task force which brought down Berns, said it was one of the region's biggest breakthroughs at the time.
More than 80,000 phone taps were involved in the 11-month operation from a team of five detectives and one analyst.
Sergeant Mansfield has been a police officer for more than 20 years and in the task force for nine.
He said the task force acted as a cohesive unit to target drug and organised crime plaguing the community.
"(Berns was) a kingpin, for here yeah, certainly in this syndicate here," Sergeant Mansfield said.
"He was moving good levels. All quantities of cocaine, meth, MDMA, pills. He would pick up between half and 1kg of meth every other day to distribute around the place.
He said that was a lot at that time.
"The conduit of meth wasn't as large to the Coast then, but he had a large portion of what was coming in at the time.
"It wasn't just Sunshine Beach, (it was) Maroochydore, Nambour, the whole of the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast, then all the way up to Far North Queensland, it was a big distribution chain."
HOW IT ALL UNRAVELLED
Berns was supplying firearms and handguns to organised crime groups on the Gold Coast.
His customer base was large and his distribution network extensive - some of them high level drug dealers and producers in their own rights.
But it wasn't his trafficking activity that caught police's eyes.
Sergeant Mansfield said there were direct links to bikies.
"Through access to organised crime people from the Gold Coast, he was supplying firearms (and) handguns," he said.
"They (bikies) were from multiple groups, if there's an opportunity to make money, colours don't matter.
"He had a large customer base and a number of people who were distributing under him, high level drug dealers in their own right, drug producers."
Sergeant Mansfield said police became aware of Berns through the work of uniformed officers.
"There was an incident at his address with his partner and the uniformed police who attended decided there was something more and provided the information to us," he said.
"It turned out he had some pretty good linkages to the Gold Coast and all of a sudden there was meth, pills, cocaine being distributed around Noosa.
"We were able to work out who was working with him. We could go up and down the levels to determine the chain."
DESPERATE BID FOR FREEDOM
Sergeant Mansfield was one of four officers who arrested Berns when they intercepted his vehicle on Nambour Connection Road at Woombye about 8pm on August 30, 2016.
Berns had just come back from a meeting on the Gold Coast with a supplier.
Upon being pulled over Berns made a desperate attempt for freedom.
"He just ran, took off, ran about 100m into bushes," Sergeant Mansfield said.
Video footage of the arrest shows Berns, dressed in blue jeans and a white T-shirt, cowering behind bushes as officers grabbed him.
There was no aggression. No resistance.
Berns was out of breath. He was done. And so was his drug empire.
His final attempt to hide any evidence failed miserably.
"We chased him down. He was out of breath from the run and didn't say a whole lot," Sergeant Mansfield said.
"We recovered the drugs he tried to throw in the bushes. Half a kilo."
In a raid of his supplier's home, police seized more than $250,000 in cash and drugs.
They also seized eight handguns, five sawn-off shotguns, 46 long arm rifles, cars, phones, computers, boats and motorcycles.
A hotted up purple Chevrolet utility, V8 Commodore, a Jeep Wrangler and a stolen Ducati motorcycle were impounded.
"It was all forfeited to the Crown," Sergeant Mansfield said.
Later searches uncovered large quantities of ice and marijuana in clip seal bags.
The impact of the arrest on the street could be felt for some time.
"Once we took him out and closed the investigation the conduit stopped for a time," Sergeant Mansfield said.
"There was a hole in the market for a time."
WHO IS SCOTT WILLIAM BERNS?
Berns was not the kind of guy anyone would want to mess with.
At close to 2m in height and weighing 160kg, he was often described as a unit.
Tattoos covered much of his body and he donned a shaved, cropped haircut.
At the time of his arrest he was 35 and relatively new to the Sunshine Coast.
He had just fled the Gold Coast after having experienced what police described "drug-related issues".
He was from a professional family.
Phone recordings painted a picture of a man who used violent threats towards those who owed him money.
Sentencing records, provided by the Brisbane Supreme Court registry, showed Berns was charged on 17 offences, the most serious being drug trafficking.
He was jailed for 10 years on April 3, 2019, with no parole eligibility date declared.
Fifty-four other people were also arrested on 202 charges, including 29 for drug trafficking.
Sunshine Coast district Detective Inspector Dave Drinnen said the results of the operation were "exceptional" from a policing and community safety point of view.
"You can see from this complex, highly protracted investigation we have a dedicated drug team on the Sunshine Coast to purely target the top end of organised crime groups," Inspector Drinnen said.
"Through these investigators and intel analysts, we can achieve some exceptional results which can disrupt organised crime here on the Sunshine Coast."
He said his team's primary focus was combating crime figures on the Sunshine Coast but it was clear they were reaching out to extensive networks.
"The work being achieved has a significant impact on drugs in our community and how it affects crime in the community," he said.
"This is another one of our strategies that we believe is making a difference."