American caught at Chch Airport admits smuggling cocaine

One of the puffer jackets that had cocaine concealed in the lining. Photo: Customs
One of the puffer jackets that had cocaine concealed in the lining. Photo: Customs
An American woman has admitted smuggling cocaine into New Zealand hidden inside puffer jackets.

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

Authorities claimed the illegal Class-A drug had a street value of around $875,000.

It's understood she had flown to New Zealand from Zimbabwe via Ethiopia and Singapore, and her travel had come to the attention of Customs officers.

Customs arrested and charged Mendez, from Phoenix, Arizona, with importation.

She was initially granted interim name suppression at Christchurch District Court but that has since lapsed.

The garment's lining. Photo: Customs
The garment's lining. Photo: Customs
On Friday, her lawyer Pip Hall QC confirmed to the Herald she had pleaded guilty to an importation charge.

She remains in custody and will sentenced on September 17.

After her arrest, Customs' southern ports manager Joe Cannon said all travellers and goods entering New Zealand were risk-assessed by Customs.

"Drug seizures like this one are infrequent in Christchurch," he said.

"This latest seizure is the result of excellent intelligence work and the professionalism of our frontline Customs officers at the airport.

"We are pleased to have stopped this cocaine from reaching the streets of our second-largest city.

"Demand for cocaine in New Zealand remains high, and organised crime groups see New Zealand as a lucrative market for their illegal activities.

"Customs officers across the country are focused on protecting New Zealand and making us safer and more secure by reducing the risks associated with international trade and travel, such as illicit drugs."



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