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Anthony Natale jailed for 16 years for 300kg cocaine shipment as judge blames ‘low intelligence’

Pizza chef turned drug trafficker and importing 300kg of cocaine gets 16 years in prison as judge emphasizes ‘low intelligence and immaturity’

  • Melbourne pizza chef sentenced to 16 years behind bars
  • Anthony Natale was a key player in the syndicate that imported 300kg of cocaine
  • The 29-year-old was convicted of the crime in the County Court on Wednesday

A pizza chef turned drug trafficker and helped import 300kg of cocaine has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, with the judge attributing his bad behavior to ‘low intelligence’.

Anthony Natale, 29, was sentenced Wednesday to a minimum of 10 years and three months in Melbourne County Court after he was caught smuggling $100 million from Papua New Guinea to Far North Queensland in August 2018.

The former chef of Melbourne restaurant La Porchetta pleaded guilty to trafficking a large commercial quantity of drugs, including MDMA, cocaine and methamphetamine, and knowingly handling the proceeds of crime.

Anthony Natale, 29, (pictured) was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and three months behind bars in Melbourne County Court

Anthony Natale, 29, (pictured) was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and three months behind bars in Melbourne County Court

Police allege Natale was a key player in the syndicate that smuggled 300kg of cocaine from Papua New Guinea into far north Queensland in August 2018.

Police allege Natale was a key player in the syndicate that smuggled 300kg of cocaine from Papua New Guinea into far north Queensland in August 2018.

The drug shipment arrived in the Sunshine State via a Cessna plane before being loaded into a car and driven south to be distributed in Melbourne, the city. Herald Sun reported.

Judge Mark Gamble highlighted Natale’s “low intelligence and immaturity” before sentenced him to a lengthy period behind bars.

“You are not the architect or the head of this drug trafficking syndicate. I accept that you just bid,’ he said.

The 29-year-old’s mother reportedly burst into tears as her son’s verdict was read.

Following the arrival of the Papua New Guinea shipment, the Victoria Police teamed up with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Federal Police and the Queensland Joint Organized Crime Taskforce to crack down on the syndicate.

Former La Porchetta pizza chef (pictured) pleaded guilty to dealing in large commercial quantities of drugs, including MDMA, cocaine and methamphetamine, and knowingly handling the proceeds of crime

Former La Porchetta pizza chef (pictured) pleaded guilty to dealing in large commercial quantities of drugs, including MDMA, cocaine and methamphetamine, and knowingly handling the proceeds of crime

Natale previously worked as a pizza chef at La Porchetta in Highpoint (pictured)

Natale previously worked as a pizza chef at La Porchetta in Highpoint (pictured)

Investigators intercepted members’ phones, used wiretaps and physical surveillance to track the group’s movements.

During his offense, the pizza maker was surreptitiously tracked while transporting a large shipment of meth and MDMA and laundering more than $2 million.

Natale unknowingly met an undercover agent at a Bunnings hardware store in Maribyrnong in October 2018.

The officer handed Natale a $5 bill with a serial number on it — a sign used to identify members of underworld groups — who handed the agent $200,000 in return.

Five months later, he gave $385,000 to another officer posing as a money launderer when the couple met at the Central East Shopping Center Braybrook.

The court heard investigators were aware of Natale moving $1,462,950 between Keysborough and Ascot Vale, as well as his frequent visits to a gang member’s home in Melbourne — a total of 23 times from January to February in 2019.

“You are not the architect or the head of this drug trafficking syndicate.  I accept you just bid,

“You are not the architect or the head of this drug trafficking syndicate. I accept you just bid,” Judge Mark Gamble said during Natale’s sentencing (drug bust pictured)

The court heard that Natalie (pictured) is well supported at home and that his family can provide him with shelter and work when he is finally released

The court heard that Natalie (pictured) is well supported at home and that his family can provide him with shelter and work when he is finally released

The ‘drug house’ was used to prepare narcotics for sale to members using production equipment from China.

In March 2019, officers raided the house and seized 169 kg of MDMA, 7,011 MDMA tablets and 24 kg of methamphetamine.

The 29-year-old was later arrested at his Pascoe Vale home in July 2020.

The court has heard that Natale is well supported at home and that his family can provide him with shelter and work when he is eventually released.

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