A Canadian woman who tried to smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Australia has been convicted and sentenced to eight years behind bars.
Melina Roberge, 24, was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to smuggling 95 kilos (209 pounds) of the drug into the Sydney Harbour in 2016, following an exotic weeks-long cruise that she and an accomplice documented on social media.
Roberge and her accomplice, Isabelle Lagace, had turned their Instagram accounts into travel diaries in the summer of 2016, posting glamorous photos and boasting about their intercontinental adventures on the MS Sea Princess, a cruise ship that docked in 17 ports in 11 countries before it finally stopped in Australia.
They captured their first photo bomb, in New York's Times Square, and their first Irish coffee in Cobh, a seaport town in Ireland. They showed off their tans on a Bermuda beach, where one of them wrote in a caption: "Gone to a place very peaceful - leave a message after the tone." They rode recreational vehicles over the desert sand. They got tribal tattoos. They made new friends. Then, they were arrested.
Roberge - who became known as "Cocaine Babe" in headlines - will serve at least four years and nine months, without eligibility for parole; she will eventually be deported to her home country, the AP reported.
"She was seduced by lifestyle and the opportunity to post glamorous Instagram photos from around the world," Judge Kate Traill said in New South Wales state District Court, according to The Associated Press. "She wanted to be the envy of others. I doubt she is now."
Roberge's Instagram account disappeared following her arrest.
But before the drug bust, she had written: "Traveling is one thing. But traveling with an open mind, ready to taste everything, see everything, learn everything and get yourself out of your comfort zone . . . is probably the best therapy and lesson ever. I used to be afraid to get out of my little town and now I feel like I don't want to see that little town anymore cause it's beautiful out there and it's sooo worth it."
Upon arrival in Australia, border agents searched the ship, discovering 35 kilograms in the women's cabin and 60 kilograms a cabin belonging to Andre Tamin, a wealthy Canadian man in his mid-60s whom Roberge described as her "sugar daddy," according to the AP.
The three were charged with importing a commercial quantity of cocaine, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, authorities said.
Late last year, Lagace, 29, was sentenced to 7½ years in prison. Tamin is scheduled to be sentenced in October, according to the AP.
The two women were packing so much cocaine in their suitcases that, the Australian Border Force said, they "did not have much room for clean underwear or spare toothbrushes."
Roberge told the court that she was an escort and met Tamin on the job in 2015. She said he invited her to go on a drug-smuggling trip to Morocco the next year.
She realized, she told the court, that she had put everything on the line for some selfies "in exotic locations and post them on Instagram to receive 'likes' and attention."
Author information: Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post, covering national news with an emphasis on health.