Coke smuggler Jamie Mendez who claimed syndicate killed family member caught negotiating fee

A bungling cocaine smuggler who claimed a powerful drugs syndicate pressured her into doing the job and sent her a video of her sister-in-law’s murder haggled over her payment and boasted about her drug-running knowledge, new documents have revealed.

American drug-mule Jamie Hudson Mendez, 44, was caught with 2.5kg of highly-pure cocaine worth almost $1 million lined inside puffer jackets in her luggage at Christchurch International Airport last September.

Mendez, who had already been jailed for heroin smuggling in France, came to New Zealand after “holidaying” through Africa for 12 days.

New documents released to the Herald show Mendez bought five puffer jackets at a “flea market-type store” in Zimbabwe.

Mendez then bought her airline ticket in Bolivia six days before jetting out of Ethiopia, and transiting through Singapore.

When she landed in Christchurch with one checked-in medium-sized suitcase and a backpack in hand luggage with her personal items, red flags were raised.

Her suitcase was x-rayed and Customs officers flagged inconsistencies on their screen.

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

Mendez, from Phoenix, Arizona, was charged with importing the illegal Class-A drug and last month at Christchurch District Court was jailed for six years and nine months.

Her lawyer claimed she was threatened and coerced by a drug syndicate who sent her a video recording of the murder of a woman she believed to be her sister-in-law.

But the new documents reveal a self-assured Mendez demanding $15,000 for the smuggling job.

In text messages obtained by authorities Mendez outlines her “displeasure at the amount I’m being paid”.

“In as much as you believe I might not know much about these jobs… I have actually done some travels and been made job offers, so, I know prices for most routes,” said the bold Mendez, alluding to her prior form for global drug running.

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

She was arrested and jailed in France for 13 months before she was released on June 17 last year and shipped back to the United States.

After her arrest in Christchurch, a text message on her phone reveals her distaste at her cut of the smuggling run.

“When I get to Kiwi Land… I’d give you a call,” she wrote.

“I want to be paid $15k. I won’t accept anything less than that. Even though it’s ridiculously low, I know you’d also make something good for yourself as a middle man… Tell whoever that would be coming to come with my money.”

She then boasted if there were any delays she would leave the country, possibly with the help of the US Embassy.

“I’m an American, they’d get me back home.”

When she was sentenced last month, Chris White, prosecutor for NZ Customs, said although there was no evidence that she ever received any money for her smuggling, it was perhaps only because she was caught at the border.

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

He told Mendez that two convictions in two countries involving the importation of drugs would now mean that “every law enforcement agency in the world will now have you on their radar”.

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