Using these calls, the pair began attempting to recoup a $1.5 million debt owed to Marrogi in December 2021.
They arranged for a man to transport what they expected to be 800 litres of 1,4-Butanediol, with a street value of $1.6 million, from NSW to Victoria.
Their plan came undone when police intercepted the truck as it travelled through Horsham, in Victoria’s west, the following month. Inside were four drums, two of which contained 1,4-Butanediol, a cleaning agent often sold as the drug GHB.
At the same time, beginning in late October 2021, the Australian Federal Police ran an operation examining the pair’s involvement in importing illicit drugs.
On February 18, 2022, 69 kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin the pair had arranged to import arrived in Australia on a Qantas flight from Bangkok.
But delays led border force officers to investigate the arrival and it was seized by the federal police. Officers discovered 27 boxes stacked three rows high, with the heroin and methamphetamine concealed among packets of green tea and magnets.
The court heard that after a string of sleepless night, Marrogi learnt the shipment had been seized after receiving a tip-off from Mannella via Mokbel, who is serving a 30-year jail term for drug trafficking and is housed in the same area at Barwon Prison.
“Tell him no good,” Mannella said. “OK,” Mokbel replied on the intercepted phone call.
Mannella, from Mickleham, was arrested in April 2022.
Her barrister, Colin Mandy, SC, said it was his client’s first time in custody, where she spent much of her days in bible studies, performing sit-ups and star jumps in her small cell, and watching The Bachelor on free-to-air television.
Mandy said his client entered into a relationship with Marrogi about four years ago after meeting his sister, who was a client of the bank where Mannella worked as a financial adviser.
Mandy said Mannella committed crimes under a “fog” of love. This included pretending to be Marrogi’s late sister Meshilin Marrogi when communicating with criminal associates after the young woman died from COVID-19 in September 2021.
“There must be a reason for that expression ‘love is blind’, and she was blinded, your honour. Mr Marrogi, she says, is a charismatic, powerful person,” Mandy said. “She fell in love with George Marrogi. The fog has now lifted.”
Morrissey said that due to prior criminal offending, Marrogi had spent his entire adult life behind bars other than one year in the community in his early 20s. He is currently housed as a high-risk inmate.
“He’s a turbulent fellow with a turbulent past,” Morrissey said. “He just wanted to be relevant and to matter, that’s what he always strove for. He found a dysfunctional way to do that.”
The pair will be sentenced in February.
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