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Cocaine smuggler at Christchurch Airport jailed for more than six years

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An American drug dealer claims she was pressured to smuggle nearly $ 1 million worth of cocaine into New Zealand by a syndicate that sent her a graphic video showing the brutal murder of a family member.

Jamie Hudson Mendez, 44, was caught with 2.5kg of very pure cocaine wearing inside five jackets in her luggage at Christchurch International Airport last September.

Authorities claimed the illegal Class A drug was worth about $ 875,000.

In Christchurch District Court today, Mendez, from Phoenix, Arizona, who had previously pleaded guilty to an import charge, was jailed for six years and nine months.

The court heard that in September last year, she flew from Arizona and rested in Africa for 12 days.

A ticket to New Zealand was purchased in Bolivia, South America, six days before it left Ethiopia.

She flew through Singapore before landing at Christchurch International Airport on September 23 with a medium-sized suitcase and a backpack in hand luggage with her personal belongings.

Her luggage had been x-rayed and Customs officers noted inconsistencies on their screen.

And when they investigated further, they found that about 2.5 kg of cocaine had been lined up inside the five jackets.

Text messages found on Mendez’s phone indicated she had negotiated $ 15,000 in drug payments.

But today it was clear that she would never see money for her efforts just a long period behind bars.

Defense Adviser Pip Hall QC said she was a disabled person suffering from regular epileptic seizures, high blood pressure, asthma, chronic back pain and arthritic knees requiring surgery – who was vulnerable to threats and the obligation of a drug union that organized the import.

A video recording of the murder of a woman she believed to be her sister-in-law was sent to intimidate her into transporting drugs to New Zealand, Hall said.

Mendez now suffers recurrences from video footage and shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for which she is receiving counseling, the court heard.

Chris White, prosecutor for NZ Customs, said that although there was no evidence that she had ever received money for her smuggling, it was probably only because she was caught at the border.

The court also heard that Mendez has a preliminary form for global drug management.

In May 2018, she arrived in Paris on a flight from Johannesburg, South Africa carrying more than 2 kg of heroin in her luggage.

She was imprisoned in France for 13 months before being released on June 17 last year and returning to the United States.

Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said her previous conviction in France was an aggravating feature of the case.

But he also noted the video, which “aims to show the murder of your sister-in-law” and that her lawyer suggested was evidence of pressure and coercion on her to get involved in drug smuggling.

The judge told Mendez that two sentences in two countries involving the importation of medicines would now mean that “every law enforcement agency in the world will now have you on their radars”.

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