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A Canadian Instagram model pleaded guilty this week to involvement in a plan to smuggle a commercial amount of cocaine into Australia via cruise ship.
Melina Roberge, a 23-year-old Montreal native, was arrested in Sydney in 2016 when her ship the Sea Princess docked and drug-sniffing dogs found 200 pounds of cocaine in the cabin. It was the biggest-ever seizure of drugs by Australian police from a passenger ship or airport. The drugs were reportedly stuffed inside suitcases and wrapped in plastic bags and had a street value of $21-30 million.
Roberge and two associates, Andre Tamine (64) and porn star Isabelle Lagace (28), spent seven weeks cruising around the world together on the 900-foot Sea Princess, painstakingly recording their journey on Instagram. The accounts have since been deleted, but there were all of the vacation hits: pics standing on rocks with their arms up, pics sipping drinks out of coconuts, pics on the beach looking down at their feet. The group’s journey started in England and made stops in Ireland, Canada, the U.S., South America, and New Zealand before reaching the Sydney harbor.
Rolling Stone called them “the worst cocaine smugglers of all time.” Roberge had reportedly been the manager of a Pandora store back home in Montreal prior to taking time off to travel, and as the trio had passed through border patrol checkpoints, they’d apparently seemed suspicious to just about everyone. The Canadian Border Service Agency, the Australian Federal Police, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had all been tracking the ship’s voyage by the time the cocaine was finally seized in Sydney.
According to the Journal of Montreal, the three Canadians were most likely mules, delivering the drugs on behalf of “at least 12 people in Quebec, Morocco, Mexico and Peru.” Roberge and Tamine both denied any involvement in the smuggling at first but changed their pleas after Lagace was sentenced to a manageable seven years of jail time for her role in the scheme. Initial reports posited that they may be facing life in prison, but Lagace reportedly pleaded guilty within months of the drugs being discovered, claiming that she was trying to clear some debt and thought the trip would be “an easy job for easy money.”
Roberge will remain behind bars until her hearing March 21.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.