Damning texts revealed as drug importer faces life in jail
The alleged Mexican drug trafficker's messages were chatty, offering gifts of accommodation and promising the world: "We're going to be rich," the man calling himself Julian wrote.
Norma Zuniga Frias, a Mexican national living in a Marrickville share house with her Australian girlfriend Rose Thomas, went for it.
She replied with a laugh and an emoji of dollars signs with wings.
Dozens of text message exchanges between Frias and "Julian" reveal in extraordinary detail how Mexican traffickers arranged to ship 16 kilograms of the deadly drug ice into Australia using her as the receiver - and how her initial dreams of instant wealth created a nightmare where both she and her girlfriend now face potential life prison sentences
Frias, 26, has pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of methamphetamine while 25-year-old Thomas - who is the daughter of online publisher and entrepreneur Jackie Maxted - will be sentenced in May for aiding and abetting an attempt to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug.
Frias came to Sydney on a student visa in April last year from her home in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. She lived with her girlfriend Thomas in a Marrickville sharehouse, in Sydney's hipster inner west.
But seven months into her Australian sojourn, she was sent a mobile phone from a person only known as "Julian" who knew a friend of hers, according to allegations contained in court documents.
Police allege that Frias kept in regular contact with the mysterious associate from Mexico, following his instructions to book Airbnb's so "a package" of eight home audio speakers could be delivered there. In reality they were hiding $14 million dollars' worth of pure methamphetamine inside.
In one encrypted exchange on Telegram, Julian claimed they had an insider working for Sony helping them.
"The speakers come from a very large important company; Sony. The person inside Sony is working for us monitors the parcel until it arrives at the address. Ok?" he wrote on January 6.
"If he sees any (light bulb emoji) (red circle emoji) we'd let you know straight away. So all good."
Frias replied: "OK excellent" and "I won't worry then".
Four days later sent her a message saying "we're going to be rich … awesome".
Frias allegedly replied: "Hahaha Ea aaaa (money with wings emoji)."
Over the next week she asked Julian for updates on what was happening and when the package would be arriving at the Airbnb she had booked.
He told her it was running "a bit behind schedule" but that she should stay in the house for a few more days and try again the following week.
"But enjoy the house with your girlfriend. Haha … a little present from the agency!" he wrote.
However two weeks later the speakers were still nowhere to be seen.
Julian wrote to Frias: "Can't wait until it's all over so we can get paid".
A few days later - on February 2 - he again told her it would be next week.
"As soon as that's done they'll give you your 15 thousand dollars," he wrote.
She responded: "Yes, f**ken good. Can't believe it."
But there were more delays, court documents allege, and Frias had to twice change the dates of an Airbnb booking.
Finally on February 20 Frias told Thomas she had received a message from DHL saying that the goods were on their way.
During their exchange a "scared" Thomas wrote to her: "Im imagining they send police with the package".
Ultimately she was right. The Australian Federal Police uncovered the plastic boxes of ice inside the audio speakers once they arrived in Sydney - even though they had been wrapped in carbon paper and silver foil to try and avoid x-ray detection.
They replaced the drug with an inert substance and a cop posed as a courier delivering the speakers to Frias at an Airbnb in Rozelle, court documents claim.
Later in the day Thomas touched base.
"Hiiiii whats going on???"
"Nothing Imma leave soon …. I have to come back later tonight to unscrew them," Frias wrote back.
"Far out … so intense," Thomas replied.
Later they joked about getting to keep the speakers and Frias texted about how they were "very big … 20 kilos each … Carried them all by myself."
But Julian still wanted her to do more. Frias wrote to Thomas about how she had been paid extra money and had to go buy backpacks because "I have to put stuff in there".
The pair later went to Kmart at Broadway Shopping Centre and bought five backpacks, a 30 piece screwdriver set, a cement pot plant and candles, court documents say.
Thomas then drove her girlfriend to the pharmacy so she could purchase a set of scales. She was then dropped back at the Airbnb.
Later that night she sent a message to Julian: "Dude the f***ing scales I bought are no good … I can open everything up today but there's no scales and its late."
The following day she called Thomas saying "things, um, are changing" and that she had been told they were going to "pick them up tomorrow" so she would have to take them with her as the Airbnb was ending.
But AFP officers swooped the next day arresting the couple and raiding their home. They found a bag with screwdrivers, gloves and an airway bill for the consignment. They also found three backpacks containing the inert substance.
Frias later told police that she was not expecting to have to remove anything, simply hand it over to another person.
She said she thought the speakers contained "coke or something" and they were much bigger than expected.
"I regret this - ever doing this. Like, it's obviously the worst thing I've ever done in my life," she said.
"I regret not having the balls to be like, 'I'm not doing this anymore' and let him deal with his problem, because in the end, it was his problem. Like I could have walked away before it - doing anything."
Frias' matter will be heard today while Thomas remains on bail in her mother's $4.5 million Bondi mansion.