An amateurish drug courier whose business recently failed due to COVID-19 delivered MDMA in a box of fruit he left for a hotel guest in coronavirus quarantine.
Phillip Cheng’s hapless attempt at drug supply came unstuck after police noted rotting bananas in the box and found an MDMA capsule hidden inside.
When Cheng was arrested and asked to provide identification he pulled out his driver’s licence and a bag of cocaine fell from his wallet.
This comedy of errors at the reception desk of the five-star Sheraton Grand, which overlooks Hyde Park in Sydney’s central business district, was captured on CCTV.
Details of the debacle were revealed in Downing Centre Local Court on Friday when Cheng pleaded guilty to drug supply and possession.
Phillip Cheng is seen giving a fruit box to police officers at the Sheraton Grand reception desk about 1.15pm on April 2. The box, which contained an MDMA capsule, was intended for a guest under COVID-19 quarantine. Cheng, 37, has pleaded guilty to drug supply
A female police officer searched the box of fruit including bananas, pears, oranges and a pineapple and uncovered a white envelope containing the MDMA capsule (pictured). When Cheng was arrested and pulled out his driver’s licence a bag of cocaine fell from his wallet
A statement of facts tendered to court said Cheng parked his white Hyundai station wagon in the Sheraton Grand’s waiting bay about 1.15pm on April 2.
Also in the car was the 37-year-old’s eight months’ pregnant wife and a box of produce including pears, oranges, bananas and a pineapple.
At the time, police were patrolling the hotel, which was being used to quarantine travellers arriving from overseas destinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry and exit was restricted to police, defence personnel, medical staff and hotel staff.
Deliveries to guests in quarantine were limited to personal items from family members or other loved ones, along with one takeaway food drop-off a day.
For the safety of guests all visitors and deliveries were searched for prohibited drugs, weapons and other harmful items.
Police on duty for those purposes watched Cheng step out of the Hyundai with a cardboard box and approach the front desk where he said he had a delivery for Room 642.
‘A close inspection of the box showed a number of fruit and vegetable items,’ the statement of facts said.
‘Police noticed the items appeared to be old and soft with small amounts of black spots, particularly on bananas within the box.
‘Police further observed a small white envelope that the accused had pushed under some fruit on approaching the desk.’
A search of the envelope revealed a folded up receipt inside which was one capsule containing 0.63 grams of MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
‘Police stopped the accused before he could leave in his vehicle,’ the statement of facts said. ‘The accused was placed under arrest and cautioned for the supply of prohibited drugs.’
When the Lane Cove man produced his driver’s licence a small resealable plastic bag of white powder fell from his wallet. It was found to contain 0.53 grams of cocaine.
The statement of facts said Cheng, a father of two, had recently lost his business due to the coronavirus pandemic and was under financial stress.
NSW Police released CCTV vision of Phillip Cheng attempting to deliver MDMA to a guest at the Sheraton Grand hotel in Sydney. The father-of-two was remorseful upon his arrest
Sheraton Grand on Sydney’s Hyde Park is described on the hotel’s website as ‘an exceptional base for exploring the iconic attractions, boutique shopping, fine restaurants, cafés and nightlife that define Australia’s capital’
‘The accused was extremely remorseful for his actions and made full admissions,’ the statement said.
He was not in court when guilty pleas were entered on his behalf and the matter adjourned for sentencing next month.
The intended recipient of the fruit box, who was in quarantine under a Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order, was spoken to by police.
The incident came just a few days after it was decreed all international arrivals had to undergo 14 days of quarantine in city hotels due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The mandatory self-isolation came into effect on March 29, when two thirds of Australia’s COVID-19 cases were infected international travellers.
Police are pictured outside the InterContinental Hotel in Sydney on March 30. Officers have been helping to quarantine international travellers in capital city hotels
In Sydney, travellers were sent to the hotels including the Sheraton Grand, InterContinental, Swissotel, Hyatt Regency and the Novotel on Darling Harbour.
Budget chains such as Ibis have also been used.
Travellers are transported from airports to designated accommodation where they are quarantined for 14 days.
The NSW government has spent more than $16million on accommodation to house travellers returning to Australia.
More than 20,000 people have been put up in Sydney hotels since the enforced quarantine began.
Australia’s borders are still closed. Only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can come in.
Travellers who return from overseas are required to spend 14 days in quarantine at designated accommodation. Passengers are pictured being escorted to a Perth hotel