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A Missouri woman has been sentenced to seven and a half years in Australian prison, four and a half without parole, for smuggling 756 grams of pure cocaine into the country for an “online lover,” BuzzFeed News reports.
Denise Woodrum, 51, was sentenced in the New South Wales District Court on Thursday morning. Australian Border Force arrested Woodrum in August 2017 at the Sydney Airport after officers deconstructed her luggage and “identified a substance concealed within clothing, make-up products and other items in her suitcase,” according to a joint media release with the Australian Federal Police.
Photos show a white substance “stuffed” into the heels of her shoes, which she told officers she had brought as a gift for her mother. After a swab of her bag, officers X-rayed her shoes, and she allegedly told them, “How much did they find in the shoes? Sorry, just talking to myself.” She later asked officers “How much did you find?” when told her shoes tested positive for cocaine. She was charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
Woodrum said she was scammed by a man by the name of Hendrik Cornelius. The two had never met but began chatting with each other online in April 2017 and exchanged hundreds of “romantic texts” leading up to her arrest. She said he tricked her into sending him money and smuggling the cocaine “on the promise of a future together.”
“Can you promise you will never leave me?” Woodrum texted Cornelius on July 11, 2017, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “You are my Only and First True Family!!!”
Prior to flying from Los Angeles to Australia, Woodrum flew from Missouri to Texas, then Trinidad and Tobago, then Paramaribo in Suriname. Neil said Woodrum went on the trip believing that she was bringing back artifacts for Cornelius. She was then supposed to give the gifts and clothes to people in Sydney.
“She was groomed to provide a financial gain for this person, Hendrik Cornelius, whatever person or persons it was behind this identity,” lawyer Rebecca Neil, who represented Woodrum, told District Court Judge Penelope Wass last month. “There are fraudsters out there who are relying on women who are vulnerable.”
Despite Neil’s argument, the judge found that Woodrum smuggled the cocaine for her own financial gain. Woodrum will be eligible for parole on February 3, 2022.
H/T BuzzFeed News
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.