‘Cocaine babe’ recruited by ‘sugar daddy’
THE youngest of the glamorous "cocaine babes" who imported cocaine in suitcases on a luxury cruise across the Pacific to Sydney has told a Sydney court a man she called "my sugar daddy" recruited her.
The court heard that Melina Roberge, 24, stood to earn a possible $100,000 from the $21m cocaine plot and had been flown first class and "showered with gifts" before the drug cruise.
Roberge and her drug cohort and former porn star Isabelle Lagace, 30, made international headlines after their arrest when glamorous Instagram photographs of them at exotic cruise stops emerged.
The three French Canadians - Roberge, Lagace, and Andre Tamine, 64 - had $21m worth of cocaine in four suitcases secreted in two luxury cabins.
The trio had crisscrossed the globe on a six-week "trip of a lifetime", embarking at Southampton in England and stopping at New York, South America and Tahiti en route to Sydney.
Roberge told the court that the 95kg of cocaine was collected by other members of the cocaine syndicate when the MS Sea Princess stopped in Peru.
Roberge was appearing at her sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to trafficking 29kg - 23kg of it's pure - of the total 95kg cocaine importation. It was found in the cabin she shared with Lagace.
Wearing flawless make-up and her long brunette hair up in a bun, Roberge was brought from the cells on Wednesday after arriving by prison van to the Sydney Downing Centre Court.
Roberge smiled at her mother, Chantelle Duguay, who was in court on her fourth trip to Australia since her daughter was arrested in August 2016.
Ms Duguay mouthed back at her daughter sitting in the court dock that she looked "belle", which is the French word for beautiful.
Roberge agreed with Commonwealth prosecutor Tom Muir that her "sugar daddy" recruited her and Lagace after they were flown free of charge on an all-expenses-paid trip to Morrocco in May 2016.
After working as escorts, she returned home to Canada with 10,000 euro in cash.
She said she had been offered another drug importation role, but had turned it down.
She had agreed to the cruise ship plot because she and Lagace were hired to be the glamorous foil for the real business of the drug importation.
"I was meant to be there and look like I was on vacation and look like a cover for everyone else," she said. "They said it was two females together who were looking to be on vacation."
Roberge told the court that she would not reveal the name of "my sugar daddy", who was "known to authorities" because she feared for the safety of family and friends back in Canada.
Roberge told the court that she had been working in the privileged prison job of sweeper at the Sydney women's jail where is currently incarcerated.
She wept as she made an apology in court to "the people of Australia".
"Since I have been in jail I have come across people struggling with addiction," she said, sobbing. "I don't want to be part of that."
The court heard that Roberge's was driven by her desire for a good lifestyle and to "likes and attention" from her Instagram posts.
She agreed with prosecutor Tom Muir that she had been "excited" about taking the luxury trip which she could not have afforded to pay for.
She said she boarded the cruise with 4000 euros in expenses from her "sugar daddy" and had spent most of it by the time she reached Sydney.
Mr Muir told Judge Kate Traill that Roberge was not entitled to a significant reduction in sentence because until recently she had been prepared to contest her guilt at a trial.
He said that Roberge's female co-accused Lagace had received a "lenient" seven-and-a-half year sentence for an early guilty plea last year.
He said Roberge was not entitled to that kind of discount and she was more than a drug mule, and "an intimate part of an elaborate scheme".
However Roberge's defence barrister Avni Djemal argued that his client had a minor role in the plot.
He said her fingerprints were not on any of the drug packages in the four suitcases.
Judge Traill will deliver Roberge's sentence at a later date.