Court jails US woman over cocaine smuggling

Cocaine was found inside Denise Marie Woodrum's shoes and other items

A US woman who said she was tricked by a fake internet suitor into smuggling drugs into Australia has been jailed.

Denise Marie Woodrum, 51, was arrested at Sydney Airport last year after border officials found cocaine stuffed inside high heels and other belongings in her luggage.

In January, she pleaded guilty to the illegal import but told the court she was a victim of an online romance scam.

A judge found she had willingly participated in the operation.

On Thursday, the New South Wales District Court sentenced Woodrum, from Missouri, to a maximum of seven-and-a-half years in jail.

“I do not accept that she is genuinely contrite for her offending as opposed to being sorry for the situation she now finds herself caught in,” Judge Penelope Wass said

Scam argument
Woodrum’s lawyer, Rebecca Neil, had described her client as a deeply religious and socially isolated woman who had been scammed by a man online.

The man, who went by the name Hendrik Cornelius, exploited Woodrum’s trust for financial gain, Ms Neil said.

Woodrum had visited South America sometime before embarking on the trip to Australia with 756 grams of cocaine, the court heard.

She had told authorities that she had no knowledge of the drugs and “it was supposed to be just clothes”.

However, Judge Wass said she was not convinced by Woodrum’s story, and said the defendant had shown little remorse for her “reckless actions”.

Woodrum will be eligible for parole after four-and-a-half years.

Nneka Ukachukwu