SA chiropractor in Melbourne jail pleads guilty to drug trafficking
A former head boy of King David Victory Park (KDVP) has pleaded guilty to importing a large quantity of cocaine from South Africa to Australia in 2018.
Dr Warren Sipser, 44, a prominent Melbourne chiropractor, previously married to television personality and author Andi Lew, has been in jail since December 2018. He recently pleaded guilty in the County Court of Victoria to importing a commercial quantity of cocaine with an estimated street value of A$90 million (R1 billion).
Australian police say that 120kg of liquid cocaine was shipped from South Africa in 600 wine bottles ordered on eBay. Police discovered the bottles containing the illegal substance, and an elaborate plan was devised to follow the drug trail which lead them to Sipser’s Elwood clinic in July 2018.
Sipser was previously denied bail in the criminal division of the Supreme Court in Melbourne in 2019.
His worried mother, who lived with her son in Melbourne at the time of his arrest, has been told by her son’s lawyers not to comment. She remains in regular contact with her son and grandson, Sipser’s 11-year-old son.
Sipser’s father, who asked not to be named, lives in Johannesburg. He hasn’t had much contact with his son since he left the country 22 years ago, but said the matter was taking its toll. He told the SA Jewish Report this week that he believed his son was “possibly set up”.
“I don’t believe my son is a drug dealer,” he said.
While Sipser sat in his high security jail cell this week, his troubled parents communicated via WhatsApp, marking the yahrzeit of his sister and their daughter, Stacey, who died 35 years ago from cancer.
“There isn’t a day we don’t think of her,” said Sipser’s father, 78, who continues to hope that one day, he will be reunited with his son and meet his grandson for the first time “when all this is over”.
Being so far away and suffering from several co-morbidities, Sipser’s father is doubtful that will happen soon, if ever.
“I feel so helpless. He’s there, I’m here, we’re all helpless. We can do nothing, it is all in Hashem’s hands,” he said.
“I told my ex-wife to wish him happy birthday earlier this month, and send him all my love. Warren is in the prime of his life, what can I say,” he lamented.
For now, his parents can only hope that their son will be given a light sentence after having already spent 26 months in jail awaiting trial.
The Herald Sun reported last week that Sipser will be sentenced later this year on one charge of attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, and one charge of possessing a controlled drug.
At his 2019 bail hearing, prosecutors said Sipser allegedly bought a consignment of wine through eBay on 23 June 2018. When it arrived in Sydney, addressed to Sipser, it came with supporting documents which predated the purchase date.
The consignment was inspected by the Australian Border Force (ABF), and the contents of one of the bottles tested “a positive presumptive test for cocaine”. The consignment was seized by the ABF, and the matter referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for investigation.
The AFP office in Sydney retained the original consignment, and forwarded the packaging to the AFP in Melbourne. Subsequent testing allegedly identified traces of cocaine in 343 out of the 600 bottles in the consignment, according to court documents.
The prosecution said agents then replaced the original consignment with replica bottles containing an inert substitute, and let the shipment continue under surveillance.
The bottles were delivered to Sipser’s Elwood clinic while he was at Crown Casino in what police suspected was an attempt to distance himself when they arrived.
The cargo was then collected by two men, who were arrested in a highway intercept at Tallarook, north of Melbourne, and later released without charge.
Three months later, an undercover police officer allegedly made contact with Sipser and made “an offer to alter or destroy documentation connecting the applicant [Sipser] to the consignment”, according to court papers. Sipser allegedly accepted the offer.
Sipser, who has no criminal convictions, was arrested in December 2018 at his Ormond Road clinic.
Police searched Sipser’s home and practice. The bail hearing was told items found included clip-seal bags, empty capsules, scales, 79.3g of cocaine, and A$2 100 (R30 709) in currency. A search of his vehicle was also conducted, which allegedly found capsules, and A$650 (R9 505) in currency.
Sipser was headboy of KDVP in 1994, and played first team rugby. After Grade 12, he trained as a paramedic in South Africa, then graduated as a chiropractor from RMIT University in Melbourne. He has a Masters in paediatric chiropractic. He opened his popular chiropractic practice at the age of 25. He made a name for himself as a primary care provider and health and wellness professional, with children making up a large percentage of his business. He served on the executive of the Chiropractors Association of Australia for many years.
He and Lew described themselves as wellness experts, and co-authored a book: 7 Things Your Doctor Forgot To Tell You, as a guide to optimal health. The couple, who divorced several years ago, have a son together.
Sipser’s chiropractic business has been sold since his arrest, and his license to practice has been suspended by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
People have been known to plead guilty, even when they are innocent, often in exchange for a reduced sentence, rather than risk a guilty verdict at trial that would come with more severe punishment.
It’s not known when Sipser will appear for sentencing.