The Australian reports that a Perth couple were conned into being drug mules by a bogus Canadian travel agency.
It all looked legit, at least on the surface. A 72-year-old man and his 64-year-old wife entered a sweepstakes for a bargain holiday to Canada, and ended up back in Australia with 3.5kg in crystal meth rocks instead of their original luggage.
“Be very careful if you win anything,” the woman cautions reporters under the conditions of anonymity. “I could have ended up in jail for 25 years, and they could have ruined my life. So be very wary, be very careful and check everything out.”
Australian Customs Officials and Australian Federal Police uncovered the scam earlier this month in a joint investigation. A Canada-based website that was a front for a fake Canadian tour company named AUSCAN Tours was responsible for managing the sweepstakes, which specifically targeted elderly Australian couples with an all-expenses-paid trip.
Once the “lucky winners” have enjoyed their peaceful vacation, their bags are swapped at the airport and the couple carries the drugs back to their home country. An agent was scheduled to meet with this particular couple when they returned, but they thought there was something wrong with their bags, and reported them to Customs officials.
A search warrant was issued, and a car and hotel room were searched. Police reported uncovering documents relevant to the con job, more bags just like those used to smuggle the drugs, and $15,000 in cash. A 38-year-old Canadian was arrested at the airport the same day the warrants were carried out, and he is being charged with importing commercial quantities of a border-controlled substance.
The AFP’s Airport Police Commander, David Bachi, said “The organizers of this scam went to great lengths to provide a façade of legitimacy. Thankfully the travellers contacted Customs and didn’t dismiss their concerns, allowing us to make the arrest.”