And then jail, redemption etc…
It was sometime in the mid-nineties when photos of a skinny kid from public housing in Maroubra throwing himself over ledges started appearing on the desks of surf magazine photo editors.
Puerto, Hawaii, the newly discovered slab at Cape Solander that was renamed Ours, wasn’t a damn wave Wayne Cleveland wouldn’t touch.
No one in the mag game knew who he was except that he ripped.
Lke most bright kids who grow up in public housing, Wayne was a fast-talker, athletic and knew how to handle himself in a fight, to put it mildly.
“Growing up in housing commission in Maroubra, you’re either going to be an elite athlete or an elite criminal,” he says.
I remember a phone call to my office in Hossegor, France, the familiar laughter pouring down the line and a request to set the gendarmes right who’d mistakenly arrested him for something or another.
He’s the only man I’ve ever seen exit a lock-up, and I’ve seen a few oddly enough, shaking everyone’s hands.
Then came a gorgeous house fashioned entirely in shades of white that would feature in myriad design magazines and a bunch of kids.
All going real good except the cash was coming from running coke out of the US using airline food caterers and the cops were on his trail.
The court heard that 40-year-old Cleveland was the Australian principal of a syndicate that imported cocaine from the US with the help of corrupt staff employed by Gate Gourmet, a catering company servicing various airlines at Sydney Airport. On December 2, 2007, customs officers found 12 blocks of white powder in the rubbish bin cabinet in the toilet of United Airlines flight UA839. The blocks contained 2.8 kilograms of pure cocaine with a street value of close to $1 million. It had been destined to be picked up by an employee of Gate Gourmet.
Long story short, the cops confiscated everything he owned, including the pretty house, Wayne got ten-to-sixteen years, did ten, and is back in Maroubra doing a little fitness work and acting as a cautionary tale to any kids who think drug smuggling might be a biz worth examining.
In this short, Wayne talks through the smuggling game, “Imagine walking through the airport strapped with three kilos of cocaine…that was a thrill for me”, the money he made, what it’s like to have thirty feds banging down your door while your kids cower on the loungeroom floor and life after jail.