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Canadian who Instagrammed cocaine-smuggling trip to Australia gets 8 years in prison

Melina Roberge was arrested in 2016 for smuggling drugs into Australia aboard a luxury cruise ship. She has been handed an eight year prison sentence.
Melina Roberge was arrested in 2016 for smuggling drugs into Australia aboard a luxury cruise ship. She has been handed an eight year prison sentence. Courtesy TVA

A Quebec woman broke down in tears in an Australian court on Wednesday when she was sentenced to eight years in prison for her part in an attempt to smuggle cocaine worth US$16 million into Sydney in luggage aboard a luxury cruise ship.

READ MORE: Canadian says her role in cruise ship cocaine smuggling was to be ‘on holiday’

Melina Roberge, 24, told the New South Wales state District Court that 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 $17,000 vacation she couldn’t afford.

Three Quebecers have pleaded guilty to smuggling 95 kilograms 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.

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Roberge was sentenced 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.”

Melina Roberge (left), Isabelle Lagacé (right) and Andre Tamine (not pictured), were arrested last year for allegedly smuggling drugs in Australia aboard a luxury cruise ship. Lagacé was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in Australia for cocaine importation. Friday, Nov. 3, 2017.
Melina Roberge (left), Isabelle Lagacé (right) and Andre Tamine (not pictured), were arrested in 2016 for smuggling drugs into Australia aboard a luxury cruise ship. Courtesy TVA

Roberge’s accomplice with whom she shared a cabin, Isabelle Lagace, 29, was sentenced in November to 7 1/2 years in prison backdated to their arrest. Lagace will also likely be deported after serving a non-parole period of 4 1/2 years.

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Police with sniffer dogs found 35 kilograms of cocaine in their cabin on Aug. 28, 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.

WATCH BELOW: 3 Canadians arrested in drug seizure worth an estimated $30 million

3 Canadians arrested in drug seizure worth an estimated $30M
3 Canadians arrested in drug seizure worth an estimated $30M

Roberge did not admit her guilt until days before her trial was due to begin in February.

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 vacation.

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

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READ MORE: 3 Canadians arrested in Australia for allegedly smuggling $30M worth of cocaine

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.

“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 invited her to join drug-smuggling voyage.

WATCH: Australian officials describe cocaine drug bust and arrests of 3 Canadians on cruise ship 

3 Canadians arrested in Australia for allegedly smuggling $23M worth of cocaine
3 Canadians arrested in Australia for allegedly smuggling $23M worth of cocaine

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

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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 euros (US$5,000) in spending money plus more cash once she returned home.

The U.S. Department of Homelands 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.