Drugs, weapons bust a covert operation months in the planning

POLICE had Mario Antonio Laspina, 51, and Richard Thomas Fulmer, 64, under surveillance in a covert operation for months before swooping on them on properties in Shiralee and Pinnacle roads on Wednesday, it was revealed in Orange Local Court  yesterday.

Laspina and Fulmer were refused police bail on Wednesday night - Laspina charged with 59 drug supply and firearms charges and Fulmer facing 14 charges mostly related to firearms, with one charge of possession of cannabis.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Monica Howard told magistrate Terry Lucas the crown opposed bail for both men, saying the community needed protection from them.

After the accused were led into the dock handcuffed, solicitor Tim Dalla was first to his feet to make a bail application for Laspina to be released.

“I am absolutely flummoxed by this - if the police had any concerns about the seriousness of all this they would have done something back in January, 2013,” he said.

Mr Dalla said although Laspina had previously been before the courts, he had no convictions since 2000.

Mr Dalla said Laspina was on medication for depression and pain, which would be difficult to manage in custody. He said because of the number of charges facing his client it could be up to three months before the case could proceed.

Mr Dalla then asked Mr Lucas to place a suppression order on the case so his client’s name could not be published in the media, saying yesterday’s front page story in the Central Western Daily of Laspina and Fulmer’s arrests was prejudicial to the case.

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Solicitor Philip Boncardo concurred with the suppression request as he put forward arguments to have his client Fulmer released on bail.

He told the court his client was a retiree who had worked for 35 years as the regional manager for Woolworths. Mr Boncardo said  Fulmer was an attentive carer for his wife who needed constant care because she has recently had a heart bypass operation and is on oxygen for the treatment of emphysema.

Mr Boncardo said his client had no criminal record and apart from a traffic infringement several years ago had not come into contact with police prior to being arrested.

“Spending the night in custody has been a searing experience,” he told the court.

Mr Lucas denied the bail application for Laspina who will remain in custody until his next court appearance.

However, he adjourned Fulmer’s application, telling Mr Boncardo to come back before the court today with supporting medical documents relating to Fulmer’s role as a carer for his sick wife. Until then Fulmer was to remain in custody.

Mr Lucas rejected the applications for the names of both men to be suppressed.

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