Former Home and Away and Heartbreak High star Putu Winchester-Stanton is one of seven men who has been charged with drug offences during an ongoing police investigation in the coastal NSW hotspot Byron Bay.
The former actor, who starred as a surfer named Pongo on Home and Away and more notably as class clown Dennis on the iconic Heartbreak High, was arrested at a Mullumbimby home last month, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
According to NSW Police, in October 2020 officers from the Northern Region North Coast Region Enforcement Squad (RES) launches two separate investigations via strike forces — Strike Force Kelly and Strike Force Tulipa — to “investigate the supply of cocaine in the Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and Bangalow area.”
As part of these investigations, on April 22 this year they executed four search warrants in properties located in Bangalow, Mullumbimby, and Byron Bay, as well as a business in Byron Bay.
NSW Police report that “during these warrants, police located and seized approximately 340 grams of cocaine, more than $25,000 cash and other proceeds of crime.
“In total, seven men were arrested during the warrants and taken to local police stations.”
Police allege that the men were involved in the continuing supply of cocaine in the Byron Bay area. According to the SMH report, Winchester-Stanton, 44, was charged with 10 offences, including supplying commercial quantity of prohibited drugs and knowingly directing the activities of a criminal group.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the cases of Winchester-Stanton as well as Zain Papa, 30, Bodene Lee Robertson, 32 and Clayton MacDonald, 44, were mentioned in Byron Bay Local Court on Monday May 10. None of the accused applied for bail, and it was formally refused by Magistrate Karen Stafford.
The Daily Telegraph also reports that none of the accused men have lodged formal pleas, and are due back before the court on July 5.
Northern Region Operations Manager, Detective Acting Superintendent Greg Thomas APM provided a statement, saying:
“The Far North Coast is continually becoming increasingly popular with domestic tourists, and it is our job to ensure locals and visitors feel safe in our holiday towns.
“These arrests continue to disrupt the supply chain of cocaine and other illicit substances to the Far North Coast community, and we will continue to put those who wish to introduce harmful substances before the courts.”
Interestingly, Winchester-Stanton was amongst the Byron Bay locals who lashed out at Melbourne visitors to the idyllic beachside town during the hard Victorian lockdown in 2020, griping to the Herald Sun:
“You can spot the Melburnians in a second. They just reek of Melbourne. Puffer jackets and ironed jeans. I mean what’s with that?”