A bodybuilding champion has complained he doesn’t think his trial was “fair” after a jury found him guilty of running a drug lab when he was supposed to be in rehab.
Luke McNally, a former Mr Australia, faced the Victorian County Court on Monday for a pre-sentence hearing after a jury found him guilty on 28 charges, including trafficking a commercial quantity of drugs and possessing precursor chemicals.
He was arrested after a police investigation into a clandestine lab operating out of the Wellbeing Planet rehab centre in Melbourne’s inner east in December 2019.
McNally had been bailed to attend the rehab centre, which was located inside the former brothel The Daily Planet, after his arrest on earlier drug charges.
Prosecutors told the court that McNally was caught on CCTV inside the facility manufacturing drugs in “six weeks of intense activity” before police raids shut the clandestine lab down.
His barrister, Matthew Page, told the court that his client was initially feeling “good” in rehab but eventually came to realise it was a “hive of drug activity”.
Mr Page claimed McNally was approached by organised crime figures, including a “gentleman named Mustafa”, who asked him to set up a drug lab.
“He goes to Wallan where he is confronted with a shed full of equipment and liquids … so he goes to work,” he said.
The court was told after an incident at the lab in Wallan, a town about 45km north of Melbourne, McNally started the process again at the Wellbeing Planet rehab centre.
McNally, the court was told, claimed in a letter after he was found guilty that he began working to pay off drug debts and obtain more drugs.
Mr Page said his client was a “very successful entrepreneur” who had turned his bodybuilding career into supplements company Mass Nutrition, once valued at $30m to $40m, with 36 franchised stores.
He said McNally had spent 12 years working for the NSW Fire Service since joining at age 18 and had received commendations for “numerous heroic acts”.
Mr Page said his client had developed PTSD from his experiences as a firefighter and was unable to return to work, leading him to self-medicate with methamphetamine and beginning his “fall from grace”.
“He now realises he’s wasted the last six or seven years of his life,” he said.
He argued the seriousness of McNally’s offending should be reduced because the drugs found were of “low purity”.
But prosecutors argued the hundreds of items of drug-making equipment and precursor chemicals was indicative that it was not an “amateur” operation.
They labelled McNally’s letter to the court, where he complained the jury’s verdict was “not fair”, as “quite bizarre” and a self-serving arrogant letter.
The matter was adjourned by Judge Rosemary Carlin who said she would sentence McNally late this year.