Strike Force Sassafra: Michael John O'Neile, Hayden O'Neill refused bail after Barwon police raid nine homes in Ashley and Moree

Targeted raids: Police from Strike Force Sassafra arrest a man in the operation at Ashley. Photo: NSW Police

Targeted raids: Police from Strike Force Sassafra arrest a man in the operation at Ashley. Photo: NSW Police

DETECTIVES have smashed what they allege is a drug ring supplying ice across the Moree area in one of the biggest operations the area has seen.

In a series of rolling raids across Ashley and Moree, Barwon detectives, backed by uniformed officers, the riot squad and Western Region arrested two men who they allege are at the top of the supply chain.

The secret operation – code named Strike Force Sassafra – unfolded over two days and saw ice, close to a dozen firearms as well as cars, bikes and other goods seized during nine search warrants.

The operation is one of the biggest ever undertaken by Barwon police with police alleging more than half a kilogram of ice had been supplied.

“We will allege that the two men arrested were involved in a criminal enterprise involved in the supply of the drug methylamphetamine, or ice, to the Moree area,” Barwon Detective Inspector David Silversides told Fairfax Media.

“Detectives have been able to secure and seize a significant amount of the drug over the nine month operation.”

Three charged: Hayden O'Neill, top, is facing 10 drug and gun offences, said Detective Inspector David Silversides, pictured above, after raids by Strike Force Sassafra.

Three charged: Hayden O'Neill, top, is facing 10 drug and gun offences, said Detective Inspector David Silversides, pictured above, after raids by Strike Force Sassafra.

Michael John O’Neile faces life imprisonment if found guilty of supplying more than a large commercial quantity of the drug methylamphetamine.

The 34-year-old was arrested in Ashley on Tuesday and fronted Warialda Local Court on Wednesday morning on seven charges of supply including participating in a criminal group.

His co-accused, Hayden O’Neill, 23, faces 10 charges including ongoing supply of methylamphetamine – a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars.

Both men did not have to enter pleas to the charges and made no application for bail, which was formally refused by Magistrate Michael O’Brien.

“This is a significant operation in the Barwon area which has required the ongoing commitment of local police over a protracted period of time to gather and collect evidence of the accused persons arrested,” Detective Inspector Silversides said.

“We believe this will have a significant impact on the supply of the drug in the command.”

During the seven searches on Tuesday in Ashley as well as raids in David St and Anne St in Moree on Wednesday, police seized large sums of cash, electronic devices, firearms and other drug paraphernalia.

Since the nine month investigation was set up in 2016, Barwon police said investigators have seized over 300 grams of what they allege is ice.

The seizure could make up 3,000 street deals and carries an estimated street value of more than half-a-million dollars, police said. 

Over half a kilo of cannabis was also intercepted by police during the operation.

Police said more arrests and charges were expected after raids on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“During the execution of those search warrants, there was an amount of cash, drugs, firearms and other items relating to what police allege is part of their criminal enterprise to supply the drug, ice,” Detective Inspector Silversides said.

“Also seized was a number of motor vehicles, four-wheelers and other property that police will allege is the proceeds of their criminal enterprise.”

A boat and trailer, a trail bike, quad bike, ride-on lawn mower and a motorbike were also seized and police claim they are the proceeds of crime.

Five cars were also seized and police allege they were used in the supply of the drug ice across the Moree area.

A third man, aged 24 and from the Moree area, was questioned by strike force detectives at Moree Police Station on Wednesday afternoon and charged with ongoing supply of a prohibited drug and participating in a criminal group.

He has been refused bail.

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