Sunday 20 May 2018

Cocaine mule says she did it for Instagram likes

Motivation is a 'very sad indictment' of smuggler's age group, says judge

Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagacé admitted to smuggling cocaine into Sydney Credit: Instagram
Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagacé admitted to smuggling cocaine into Sydney Credit: Instagram

Rod McGuirk

A drug mule said she tried to smuggle €12.6m worth of cocaine into Australia because it was a chance to post selfies on Instagram during a free holiday.

Escort Melina Roberge, 24, broke down in court when she was jailed for eight years for taking part in an attempt to smuggle the drugs into Sydney aboard a luxury cruise ship.

She told the New South Wales state district court she risked a life sentence in an Australian prison for the opportunity to take selfies “in exotic locations and post them on Instagram to receive ‘likes’ and attention” during a €13,000 holiday she could not afford.

Three Canadians have admitted smuggling 95kg of cocaine in suitcases aboard the MS Sea Princess during a seven-week cruise in 2016. The trip began in Britain and continued to Ireland, the United States, Bermuda, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, then Australia.

Roberge, dubbed “cocaine babe” in headlines and on social media, was sentenced on Wednesday to a non-parole period of 4 years and 9 months in prison before she is likely to be deported to Canada.

Judge Kate Traill condemned Roberge’s motivation for crime as a “very sad indictment” on her age group who “seek to attain such a vacuous existence where how many ‘likes’ they receive are their currency”.

“She was seduced by lifestyle and the opportunity to post glamorous Instagram photos from around the world,” the judge said. “She wanted to be the envy of others. I doubt she is now.”

Roberge’s accomplice with whom she shared a cabin, Isabelle Lagace, 29, was sentenced in November to seven years in prison backdated to their arrest. Lagace will also likely to be deported after serving a non-parole period of four years.

Police with sniffer dogs found 35kg of cocaine in their cabin on 28 August, 2016, when the liner, operated by California-based Princess Cruises, berthed in Sydney.

Lagace told the court she took part to settle a debt in Canada. Roberge did not admit her guilt until days before her trial was due to begin in February.

Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagacé
Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagacé

Judge Traill said Roberge was recruited by a wealthy Canadian benefactor, whom Roberge described in court as her “sugar daddy” but never identified for fear of repercussions for her family in Canada, with the lure of a free holiday.

The third accomplice, Andre Tamin, 65, will be sentenced in October. He was caught with 60kg of the drug in his cabin.

In an affidavit admitted to the court, Roberge said at the time she was “a stupid young woman” governed by superficial goals.

“I have devastated so many people in the process,” she wrote.

The court heard Roberge met her “sugar daddy” in 2015, and they began an intimate relationship while she worked as an escort for him. He invited her to work as an escort in May 2016 during a trip to Morocco, where he first enjoined her to take part in a drug-smuggling voyage.

Judge Traill said the then-22-year-old was “there to look pretty”, acting as a decoy to the drug dealing below deck.

Roberge told the court she suspected drugs were brought aboard at Peru, because of increased activity during a stopover there.

The judge said Roberge was also motivated by profit. She was promised the ticket, €4,000 in spending money plus more cash once she returned home.

The US Department of Homeland Security and the Canada Border Services Agency identified the trio as high-risk passengers among the 1,800 on board.

The haul was a record for cocaine smuggled in luggage through an Australian air or sea port.

Independent News Service

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