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Drug lord’s downfall at suburban pizza shop

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The hungry drug-dealing boss’s guard was down as he waited for a meal after ordering at his local ­Caroline Springs pizza joint on ­September 11, 2019. Staff at the shop were shocked when the heavily armed men in black pounced out of ­nowhere, handcuffed their customer and drove him away. Luzza, one of Melbourne’s large-scale drug importers, went down the same way he came up – very quietly and off the radar.No one outside Melbourne’s criminal underworld had heard of Luzza, especially not hard-nosed anti-bikie cops who ultimately plotted the drug lord’s downfall. Police knew Luzza through some low-level burglaries done in his younger days but he had been virtually unsighted sinceThe fact Luzza rose from patched bikie to Comanchero officer bearer in little more than a few months ­surprised even Echo task force ­detectives, who said the move was “odd”. “He was a relative unknown in organised crime circles,” former Echo and now state anti-gang squad senior sergeant Leigh Howse said. “To hold such a senior position, you have to bring something to the fold, you don’t just walk in and say ‘I want to be the treasurer’. “They’re (Comanchero) well aware he can bring certain skills to the club … he’s been given a fairly senior position in a relatively short period of time.” Luzza grew up in Melbourne’s northwest with fugitive Comanchero boss Hasan Topal.“You may say Topal assisted Luzza in coming into the club,” Sergeant Howse said.Luzza would have been an ideal fit for the Comanchero.He was quiet, he was cautious, he was unheard of, he was hooked in with Chinese drug importers and he was making good money selling drugs. Luzza shopped around for the best prices on Chinese factory produced analog drugs, including methyl alpha-acetophenylacetate (MAPA), fluorodeschloroketamine and MDMA mirror Eutylone. He was linked with a Hong Kong middleman who provided a full ­service one-stop shop for overseas traffickers.The service included packaging and shipping the drugs to Australia disguised as eyelash curlers and other items. Fraudulent paperwork, fake ­addresses and bogus tracking and consignment numbers were all ­included.One of Luzza’s big deals while under surveillance was a 100kg MAPA haul that could have yielded 80kg of high-grade meth.The haul would have been worth tens of millions of dollars had it made it to the streets.But the deadly haul was seized by Australian Border Force.Luzza was also tracking a 200kg consignment of 1,4 butanediol – a legal industrial cleaner that turns into GHB when ingested.It was shortly before the MAPA seizure that Echo task force got the tip Luzza was involved with the ­Comanchero gang.Officers from Echo, the ABF and the AFP’s national anti-gang task force launched Operation Echo-Maine-2018 in late 2018.Investigators identified Luzza as running a “high-level drug trafficking syndicate” then went to work picking the racket apart.The “significant” 12-month investigation involved multiple police members working around the clock monitoring phone taps and spy cameras installed in vehicles and residences – according to court documents obtained by the Herald Sun. Echo task force officers did not know where the investigation would take them but knew they needed to “get ahead of the game” to counteract the crew’s subterfuge. It became clear early that Luzza ran a tight ship.His syndicate operated with ­encrypted messaging, fake IDs and fake addresses, and drugs were moved from storage boxes opened with false identities and paperwork. Luzza also kept himself insulated from those further down the pecking order in the network. Police said the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, and it was possible several members of the crew had never met each other. Luzza’s main man during the early stages of the investigation was his trusted former second-in-charge Fawzi El Cheikh.El Cheikh, who did the heavy lifting, ensured the imported drugs were collected and moved to their next destination by lackeys.He stamped his status by getting about town in stolen Maseratis and Mercedes-AMGs.El Cheikh was not a Comanchero but he was close with Topal.Police seized the prized trophy of Topal’s Comanchero jacket when they arrested El Cheikh.Luzza and El Cheikh’s relationship “soured” after the mammoth MAPA and butanediol seizures.Echo task force put the screws on and the cracks were beginning to appear. A frustrated Luzza couldn’t get his hands on his drugs and he began to distrust El Cheikh, suspecting his lieutenant was running his own game. In stepped Lorenzo Carbone, who quickly replaced El Cheikh as Luzza’s No. 2.Carbone, a flashy type who enjoyed punting at Crown casino, took over El Cheikh’s tasks and got to work. The violence associated with high-level drug trafficking also began to appear. If anyone crossed the crew, stepped out of line or wouldn’t pay up, then they copped it hard. Echo task force called it “organised and serious offending”. A Reservoir man who owed money for a drug debt learnt the hard way.The victim was shot at twice – struck four times – and had his car firebombed during four days of chaos.Koray Biricik copped to the arson but he was far from the crew’s enforcer. He was a lackey who got in over his head.“He got too big too soon,” Sergeant Howse said. “Once you’re with these guys it’s pretty hard to remove yourself.”Police said Biricik and other low-level crew members Richard De Luca, Ruslan Abdullayev and Matthew Gray were lured to the operation because they want to live the high lives with fast easy cash and ­access to good quality drugs. “The attraction for smaller players is they see the lifestyle the bigger players have … they take enormous risks,” Howse said.The lackeys also had their own street-level trafficking side hustles to cover flashy designer clothes and up-market bumbags – a drug dealer staple. “They were all getting their pay days … but Luzza was by far living the greater life,” Sergeant Howse said.But Luzza, who grew up in a working-class family in Attwood, was careful with his money and didn’t splash it around town.Though he did fork out for a couple of first-class holidays to Europe with his glamorous girlfriend Christina Bailey, Topal and Topal’s wife. Echo task force said Luzza also flew first-class to Europe where he met Topal for a week-long boys’ holiday.Luzza hid money in cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin.“For a man with no means he was doing OK,” Sergeant Howse said. But all bad things come to an end and Luzza’s empire and more than 2.3 tonnes of drugs worth tens of millions of dollars came crashing down around him with his arrest while waiting for his pizza. Luzza may be sitting in his cell ruing his choice to become a patched Comanchero and taking the “poisoned chalice” treasurer job. “As soon as he popped up (in that position) he piqued our interest,” Sergeant Howse said.Now Luzza has his head down, facing a potential jail term.



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