Zeki Atilgan thought things didn't seem quite right when he met a man in a busy McDonald's car park to hand over $200,050 cash.
Atilgan gave a false name, looked at all the surveillance cameras around the fast food restaurant, and asked to meet somewhere else.
On Wednesday, Atilgan lost an appeal against his sentence for recklessly dealing in the proceeds of crime, having argued the judge jailed him on the more serious basis that he knew about the drug ring.
Atilgan pleaded guilty, but last year told court he thought the money related to repaying creditors for an acquaintance's gambling debt.
Judge Martin Blackmore questioned his guilty plea, noting gambling is not illegal.
He said: "You have to be recklessly indifferent to a crime. You can't be recklessly indifferent to not a crime … I was recklessly indifferent to buying milk. It's not a crime."
In sentencing Atilgan to at least one year and nine months' jail, Judge Blackmore said the chef took the opportunity to "make some quick cash without actually thinking very carefully about what he was involving himself in".
In the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, Atilgan argued Judge Blackmore erred in saying he "involved himself" in a drug transaction.
But the appeals court dismissed his argument.
Justice Richard Button, one of three judges on the appeal panel, said the word "involve" did not convey Atilgan's knowledge of the drugs.
"To give an example from everyday English that springs readily to mind, one can speak of a passenger on a bus being 'involved' in a motor vehicle accident, without that person having played any physical or mental role in the events leading up to the collision," Justice Button said.
McManus was sentenced to a 20-month intensive corrections order, and prosecutors dropped fraud and criminal participation charges.