Actor Accused of Being Cocaine Operation's Mastermind

Putu Winchester-Stanton, a former Australian actor, was among those arrested for their alleged roles in a cocaine ring in Byron Bay, an area popular for tourists in New South Wales, Australia. The 44-year-old was arrested in Mullumbimby and faces 10 drug charges, including supplying commercial quantities of illegal drugs and knowingly directing a criminal group, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Six other men were arrested following the police investigation into the supply of cocaine in Byron Bay.

After starting an investigation in October 2020, police executed four search warrants on April 22, including one at a Byron Bay business. The other three were at homes in Mullumbimby, Bangalow, and Byron Bay. Police allegedly seized about 340 grams of cocaine and over $25,000 AU (about $19,500 in U.S. dollars).

Winchester-Stanton was the oldest of the men arrested. The other men arrested included three 30-year-old men; Bodene Robertson, 32; Clayton MacDonald, 44; and a 24-year-old man. Robertson was charged with 16 offenses. MacDonald faces charges of supplying an indictable quantity of a prohibited drug and participating in a criminal group. Robertson and MacDonald appeared in court on Monday and were not granted bail. Their next court hearing is set for July 5. The 254-year-old was granted conditional bail and will be in court on May 24.

The arrests highlight the ongoing issue of illegal drugs in the popular tourist destination, Northern Region operations manager Detective Acting Superintendent Greg Thomas APM, told the Morning Herald. "The Far North Coast is continually becoming increasingly popular with domestic tourists, and it is our job to ensure locals and visitors feel safe in our holiday towns," he explained.

Winchester-Stanton has not appeared in a movie or TV show since 2018's Hell is Light, according to his IMDb page. He starred in the series Heartbreak High and Home and Away. In September 2020, he made headlines in Australia for criticizing people from Melbourne and other tourists visiting Byron Bay in a Herald Sun interview. "You can spot the Melbournians in a second," he said at the time. "They just reek of Melbourne. Puffer jackets and ironed jeans. I mean what's with that?"

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The actor also called tourists "greedy and selfish" for visiting during Melbourne's coronavirus lockdown. "They are probably up here spending other people's money," Winchester-Stanton said. "If they are sneaky enough to get here during this pandemic then imagine what else they are up to. They make my skin crawl."