A Canadian drug mule who attempted to smuggle cocaine into Australia on a luxury cruise ship has been sentenced to eight years in prison by a judge who said the woman had turned to crime as a way to achieve fame on Instagram.
Melina Roberge, 24, told the New South Wales state district court that she had risked a life sentence for the opportunity to take selfies “in exotic locations and post them on Instagram to receive ‘likes’ and attention” during a $17,000 vacation she couldn’t afford.
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 and two other Canadians have pleaded guilty to smuggling 95kg (209lb) of the drug in suitcases aboard the MS Sea Princess during a seven-week cruise in 2016 from Britain to Ireland, the United States, Bermuda, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile then Australia.
Roberge is likely to be deported to Canada after she has served four years and nine months in prison.
Her accomplice, Isabelle Lagace, 29, was sentenced in November to seven and a half years in prison backdated to their arrest. Lagace will also probably be deported after serving a non-parole period of four and a half years.
Lagace told the court she took part to settle a debt.
Roberge did not admit her guilt until days before her trial was due to begin in February.
Traill said Roberge was recruited with the lure of a free vacation 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.
In an affidavit admitted to the court, Roberge said that at the time she was “a stupid young woman” who was governed by superficial goals.
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 invited her to join a drug-smuggling voyage.
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 ($5,000) in spending money plus more cash once she returned home.
The third accomplice, Andre Tamin, 65, will be sentenced in October. He was caught with 60kg of the drug in his cabin.
SOURCE: Associated Press