How an adult sex shop owner stayed afloat when sales dropped
THE internet had sent adult sex toy sales into a tail spin but Melinda Anne Slingsby found a way to keep Diva's Den afloat.
Or, as her customers knew to ask for, tea and pot-pourri.
While there were no laws preventing the drug's sale when Slingsby took it on, her Wood St business showed no signs of slowing down once laws made it illegal in 2013.
The very next day after a police raid in June 2014, Malibu, as she was commonly known, restocked the shop and continued trading the drugs until an undercover cop caught her out almost six months later.
She too was caught up in the police operation targeting bikie drug dealer Frank Harold Voss and the State Government is pursuing assets belonging to her and her former partner Michael John Tyson.
It is believed the total value of the former couple's restrained property, under proceeds of crime confiscation laws, is about $809,000.
Former employee Elizabeth McGrath, in a police statement made about a month before she died, said Malibu was greedy and just "wanted to make more and more money".
The 38-year-old single mum, who worked for Slingsby from February to July 2014 after meeting her through Voss, said her new boss loved to brag about her lifestyle and how much money she had.
This included first-class flights when she travelled, swanky accommodation and Ms McGrath said her boss, who bought her parents a house with money she made from the sales, was always looking at houses to buy in Mackay in the $600,000 range.
"I was blown away when I first started working there about how much synthetic marijuana was being sold and I remember saying to Frank that it was like I was working in a shop just dealing drugs," McGrath told police.
"Malibu used to get really cranky if we didn't get up near the $2000 per shift in sales of the synthetic marijuana.
"The shop was just a front for the sale of synthetic marijuana."
The green leaf material was sold in small paperback packages with a plastic satchel inside; 3g for $75.
Brands included Storm, Heisenberg and Mojo.
Throughout McGrath's time working at Diva's Den, they would make $2500 selling the marijuana on a six-hour shift at the store, $5000 over two shifts for the day.
"I would say that we would be lucky to sell one adult product per shift, if not per day," she said.
"The sales of synthetic marijuana were recorded on a ledger that was kept at the counter as DVD sales.
"This was so that if the police ever raided the store they wouldn't be able to get all of the sales records."
Police seized a lot of synthetic marijuana, Kamagra and other generic forms of Viagra being sold when they did raid the store.
The very next day, Malibu restocked the store with synthetic marijuana she kept at home.
"It surprised me that police didn't raid the house at the same time they raided the shop," Ms McGrath said.
"Malibu knew what she was selling was a synthetic form of marijuana and that it had similar effects to marijuana.
"I was aware that some people had bad reactions after smoking the synthetic marijuana and became psychotic.
"I discussed this with Malibu on a number of occasions and her only reply was that she didn't know how they could smoke it.
"She told me that Tyson tried it once and had a seizure. But it never stopped her from selling it or taking it off the shelves."
Slingsby, 43, was sentenced in June 2016 to three years' jail but her sentence was suspended immediately after the 338 days she had already served.
"The raid didn't slow you down, nor did the fact of being charged," Justice Duncan McMeekin said.
"I've no doubt you were well aware of the illegality of what you were doing and you did so for a cynical commercial benefit."
The court heard she was planning to live with her parents in Gatton upon release.
Tyson sold 1011 ecstasy pills to an undercover cop for $16,000 after Slingsby unwittingly set the pair up.
His five-year jail term will be suspended after he has served 20 months.
He had already served 405 days in custody when he was sentenced in Mackay Supreme Court in July 2016.
Manufactured to mimic known narcotic or hallucinogenic drugs, these are marketed as "legal highs" and are sold in service stations, adult stores and online.
But they are not safe and are illegal in Queensland.
The Crime Stoppers website says people are playing Russian roulette with their lives when they consume synthetic drugs.
Common side effects include violent outbursts, irrational fears, psychosis, heart damage, blurred vision, stroke and liver damage.
Worse still, people have died within hours of consuming synthetic drugs. - ARM NEWSDESK