If Isabelle Lagace and Melina Roberge were trying to avoid jail – possibly for life – by hiding huge bags of cocaine in nondescript luggage, they failed. But if they wanted numerous, public bikini shots and selfies documenting their wild ride on a two-month luxury cruise to be spread across the international news media, they nailed it. Lucky for us, the duo provided both an example of why not to smuggle absurd amounts of narcotics across international borders and a taste of what a $11,000-plus cruise looks like, documenting stops in Bermuda, Chile, Ecuador and New York City’s Times Square.
Authorities have yet to reveal how or when they knew Lagace, 28, and Roberge, 22, were carrying 35 kilos of cocaine on a cruise liner headed from England to Australia. But when the MS Sea Princess made its final dock in Sydney, the two were quickly arrested along with another man, 63-year-old André Tamine, who himself was holding 60 kilos. It’s unclear what connection the two women have with Tamine, but together the authorities called the 95-kilo bust Australia’s biggest-ever seizure of drugs coming through a passenger boat or airport.
Drug-sniffing dogs finding the 200 pounds of coke wasn’t a fluke – multiple government agencies, including the Canadian Border Service Agency, the Australian Federal Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, had been tracking the 900-foot ship’s voyage.
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Had the scam worked, the three Canadians – all from Quebec – would have probably made a mint, as Australia has among the highest drug prices in the world given its geographical distance from, well, everywhere. According to the Toronto Star, authorities are still investigating from which country they allegedly smuggled aboard the drugs. And given that they hit multiple ports in South American countries known for narcotics – including Colombia, where nearly 70 percent of Australia’s cocaine is produced, and Peru – it may take some time to figure it out.
These three wannabe narcos messed up in numerous ways: The $23 million worth of drugs was found in plastic bags stuck directly in suitcases, half-hidden under what appear to be dirty towels – clearly the work of people who have never heard about the lengths most smugglers go to conceal their product from police. (Even Steve-O had a better plan.) But the real question is why they tried to get so much across the border in one go.
According to the Australian Critical Intelligence Commission’s 13th annual Illicit Drug Data Report, released just a few weeks before the bust, only 306 kilograms of cocaine were detected crossing the Australian border in fiscal year 2014-15, and the five most significant finds that year – in which people tried to use things like a log splitter and a pastry machine to conceal their hauls – only added up to 95 kilos. That’s right, the average score for the border guards is usually about 20 kilos, so these two figured they could stuff nearly twice that weight in some roll-on suitcases. Perhaps if they’d spent less time on social media and more time performing basic Google searches, they would have had better luck. Or maybe their bad luck was being on a boat with a guy smuggling twice the cocaine they were.
That being said, way to go out on a high note, ladies. Too bad it might be the last vacation of your lives.