Port Jackson Bay, Australia – A Canadian woman has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Australia for her role in smuggling $21.5 million in cocaine as she traveled the world aboard a luxury cruise ship.
Dubbed by the media as the “cocaine babe,” 24-year-old Melina Roberge documented her weeks of world travel on her Instagram account, The Washington Post reported.
“She was seduced by lifestyle and the opportunity to post glamorous Instagram photos from around the world,” Judge Kate Traill said at Roberge’s sentencing in New South Wales state District Court on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.
“She wanted to be the envy of others,” Traill noted. “I doubt she is now.”
Roberge was arrested on Aug. 28, 2016, after Australian Border Force agents raided the Sea Princess luxury cruise liner as it docked in the Sydney Harbour, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
They discovered 95 kilograms of cocaine packed into suitcases, which Roberge had hauled along with her as she traveled from Britain on a route that took her to Ireland, the U.S., Bermuda, Columbia, and Panama, followed by Ecuador, Peru and Chile, CBS News reported.
Finally, the luxury ship docked in Australia.
Investigators found 35 kilograms of cocaine in the cabin Roberge shared with her accomplice, 29-year-old Isabelle Lagace.
In November of 2017, Lagace was sentenced to seven-and-one-half years in prison for her role in the offense.
She told investigators that Roberge was recruited for the job by a wealthy benefactor in Canada, and that Roberge’s duty was to be a decoy and “look pretty,” while drug transactions were being conducted below deck.
The Canadian benefactor, who Roberge referred to as her “sugar daddy,” was identified as 65-year-old Andre Tamin.
The pair met in 2015, while she was working as an escort for him, CBS News reported. Tamin invited the then-22-year-old Roberge to accompany him to Morocco as an escort, then invited her to join in the drug smuggling operation.
In exchange for her assistance, Tamin paid for Roberge’s world travel, gave her $5,000 in spending cash, and promised to give her more money when they returned to Canada.
Tamin’s sentencing has been scheduled for October.
Traill noted that the allure of social media “likes” was a major factor in Roberge’s wiliness to participate in the illegal voyage, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“This is a very sad indictment on her relative age group in our society who seem to get self-worth by likes on Instagram which can make them a marketable commodity,” Traill said. “It is sad they seek to obtain such a vacuous existence where how many likes they receive is their currency.
Roberge was sentenced to a minimum of four years and nine months in prison, but will be eligible for parole in 2021, due to the time she served prior to sentencing.