Former heavyweight boxer Julian Gallin was a popular bloke between August and November 2015, when he received thousands of SMS messages asking him to "catch up for a beer."
His network of mates included a former AFL agent, lawyers, stockbrokers, builders and real estate agents, who would regularly contact Gallin at his partner's Elwood apartment.
But listening devices and a hidden camera installed by police in the Tennyson Street unit would help explain the flurry of messages to Gallin's phone, which peaked on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Gallin, 34, a security industry manager and agent for Ladbrokes betting agency, was supplying cocaine to hundreds of well-heeled clients in Melbourne's inner-south. He was also under 24-hour surveillance by detectives from the drug squad.
His associate in the "highly sophisticated" syndicate was Christopher Carron, 33, – a former Melbourne Grammar student who had studied finance at RMIT and earned more than $200,000 a year as a stockbroker with Broadbent Financial.
Carron says he was forced to join the syndicate after developing a fierce addiction to cocaine while working in the stockbroking industry and amassing significant drug debts.
Carron and Gallin met when they were 15 and have been friends ever since.
Carron started as a courier driver but also bagged the powder and sometimes worked the phones when Gallin was not around.
The cocaine was allegedly graded by quality, with a standard unit selling for $300 a gram, while premium product that was found to be 92 per cent pure fetched $400 a gram.
The drugs were placed in a coffee machine or a kitchen rangehood, from where they were collected by courier drivers.
Over a four-month period in 2015, the drug ring was involved in more than 2400 cocaine deals worth an estimated $780,000.
When police eventually raided the Elwood property on November 23, 2015, Carron was sitting at a dining room table, separating and bagging 500 grams of cocaine.
Gallin was seated at the same table and holding the "work phone" used to co-ordinate their business.
When Gallin sought legal representation from one of Melbourne's most prominent and expensive Queen's counsel, the advice was succinct: "you're f----d".
The supplier to the syndicate, Vladimir Djordjic, 34, was also in a precarious legal position, when police executed search warrants at his Caulfield apartment in October 2016.
Inside the Payne Street unit, detectives found 2.3 kilograms of cocaine, 1.9 kilograms of methamphetamine, a semi-automatic pistol and $2,784,490 in cash stashed in a floor cavity under the bed.
At a Ringwood storage facility leased by Djordjic under a false name, a further $959,950 was found in a hydraulic storage compartment in a Toyota van.
As a law graduate from Monash University, Djordjic would have realised the case against him was overwhelming.
A police surveillance unit had observed Djordjic removing a blue freezer bag from the boot of his car and delivering a kilogram of high-grade cocaine to Gallin's Elwood unit, then receiving $240,000 in cash.
"You were recorded having conversations with Gallin about supplying him with cocaine, the quantity of previous and future supplies of cocaine, the price structure of supplying half and whole kilograms, your drug trafficking business, and methods of physically hiding quantities of cash," court documents reveal.
Last week, the Court of Appeal upheld a 19-year sentence for Djordjic for his role in the "well organised, highly professional drug trafficking business."
Djordjic – who used the password "cocaine king" for his Phantom Secure modified Blackberry phone – must serve almost 15 years before he will be eligible for parole.
It is understood the 34-year-old refused to co-operate with detectives by identifying the Sydney-based kingpin of the syndicate.
On Monday, Gallin was handed a nine-year prison sentence in the County Court of Victoria after pleading guilty to trafficking a large commercial quantity of cocaine. The father-of-two must serve five years before he is eligible for parole.
Carron avoided a custodial sentence and was handed a five-year community correction order after pleading guilty to trafficking 900 grams of cocaine.
County Court Judge Liz Gaynor accepted that both Gallin and Carron had undergone successful drug rehabilitation and transformed their lives while awaiting trial.
Last year, a delivery driver for the syndicate, Kelvin Wong, was sentenced to four years in prison. Another courier will face the County Court later this month.
Senior Crime Reporter