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Filipina ‘drug mule’ pleads guilty, jailed 15 years plus

20 November 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao 

A Filipina former domestic helper who tried to smuggle 3 kilos of cocaine into Hong Kong from Dubai last year was jailed on Nov 8 for 15 years and 5 months, after pleading guilty to drug trafficking.

Imelda G. Penascosa, 45, was somber and emotionless as Deputy High Court Judge Gareth Lugar-Mawson read the sentence.

The mother of three, who was working as a maid in Macau at the time of her arrest, admitted her guilt at the start of what was supposed to be a seven-day trial. An out-of-court agreement between the prosecution and defense led to her guilty plea.

The stash found in Penacosa's luggage.
Penascosa was charged with “trafficking in a dangerous drug” for bringing in more thank three kilos of pure cocaine. She was represented by Jonathan Acton-Bond on instructions of Legal Aid.

In mitigation, Acton-Bond said Penascosa had been separated from her husband by whom she had two children aged 24 and 26 She had a boyfriend in Macau, the father of her 10-year-old child.

Acton-Bond pleaded for a 33% discount to her sentence, citing the accused’s act of volunteering to help trap the recipients of the smuggled drug in a controlled delivery operation, albeit unsuccessful, outside the Customs area of the HKIA.

The prosecution said the drug seized had a street value of more than $4 million in the Hong Kong market.

But Judge Lugar-Mawson said he could not give the Filipina a huge discount due to the big amount of cocaine imvolved, her pleading guilty only on the first day of the trial, as well as the international aspect of the case.

He said the sentence of 15 years and 5 months was already light, given that her offence normally carried a 23-year sentence, plus an extra 5 years due to its international aspect.

The court heard that Penascosa was arrested on the night of Feb 13 last year after she arrived from Dubai with three cans containing 248 plastic-wrapped pellets disguised as chocolate candies.

During investigation, she said the three cans were handed to her at Dubai Airport by a Macau-based Filipino woman named Jennifer as presents for her children.

Penascosa said she met Jennifer and her Filipino partner Edilberto in Macau. It was the man who suggested she went to a business seminar in Dubai and possibly get a job from the man’s Dubai employers. Jennifer bought her a return ticket on Emirates Airlines.

Penascosa entered Hong Kong through the China Ferry Terminal on Feb 8 and flew to Dubai on an Emirates plane on the same day. But she found no job in Dubai.

In her Dubai hotel, she was visited by two men – one of whom she understood to be Jennifer’s brother – who gave her a black Samsung phone which she was told to use for subsequent communications in that emirate.  She was also instructed to contact a certain Tony, who was described as the boss.

Tony asked her for a photo so his brother Mike, who was flying to Dubai, could meet her at the departure gate of Dubai Airport.

But when she went to the airport on Feb 13 for her flight back to Hong Kong, Penascosa was surprised to meet Jennifer, who gave her the three ‘heavy and smelly” choco cans.

She also found out she and Jennifer would fly back to Hong Kong on the same plane, with Jennifer sitting a few rows back.

Acton-Bond told the court that despite her jailing, Penascosa would continue to help Customs track Jennifer and her cohorts.

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