Five years ago, 22-year-old Cassie Sainsbury arrived at a Colombian airport with a suitcase full of cocaine.
She checked in, went through passport control and while waiting at the gate for her flight, she heard an announcement over the loudspeaker: “Cassandra Sainsbury to report to the desk”.
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Four police officers were waiting for them.
“It was a horrible feeling that I don’t even know how to explain it,” Sainsbury, now 27, told 7NEWS Spotlight.
The officers took her to a room and started opening her bag. Seeing headphones almost made her feel relieved.
“Stupid little me,” she says. “Didn’t realize there were rolls of cocaine in the middle of those packs of headphones.”
In the years since, Sainsbury, widely known as ‘Cocaine Cassie’, has insisted she didn’t know what was in her bag – even as she was convicted of smuggling 12 pounds of cocaine and sentenced to six years in a notorious Colombian was sentenced to prison.
Now, back on Australian soil, in an in-depth interview with 7NEWS’ Spotlight, Sainsbury has given her most detailed account yet of what led to that fateful day at the airport, revealing she cured drugs while working at a Sydney brothel and it made up for 15 deliveries a week.
Finally, Sainsbury admits she knew she was dealing cocaine when she was caught at the Colombian airport.
However, according to her, she saw no way out.
“It was a whole series of events that got me to this point that, believe it or not, a series of events doesn’t happen to everyone — but it did happen.”
The brothel where it all began
Sainsbury’s path to a Colombian prison began in a brothel in western Sydney.
After her fitness business collapsed in Adelaide, she found a job at Gumtree she liked – the freedom to choose her own hours and an hourly commission.
“I didn’t realize it was actually a brothel because it said ‘Gentleman’s Club,’ so I pictured it as a bar,” Sainsbury said.
Instead, she found herself in sex work, with those two months being “one of the worst things I’ve experienced.”
“I always expected that one day they would say, ‘Here’s that receptionist job you wanted,'” she added.
That never happened. But according to Sainsbury, the brothel lady noticed how unhappy she was and put her in touch with a friend who was looking for workers to make deliveries for him – someone named Joshua.
“I think I felt like she was actually trying to help me,” Sainsbury said.
Joshua’s request was simple: deliver envelopes containing documents to his clients in Sydney’s CBD.
Sainsbury said she would go to the brothel and be told “these are the envelopes that have to go”. There were no names on the envelopes, she said. According to Sainsbury’s, she then shipped to reputable companies in the heart of the CBD – even to an orthodontist.
In a week, she delivered envelopes between two or three times and 10 to 15 times, she says. And in return, she received between $100 and $150 per delivery.
Sainsbury says at the time she “really believed” the envelopes contained only documents. “I was very naive,” she said.
Now she says she knows what was in those envelopes — even though she never looked inside. “It was drugs, cocaine,” Sainsbury said.
A fateful international journey
One day Joshua told Sainsbury he had international work for her – a delivery to London.
Even then, Sainsbury says she didn’t realize she was being asked to engage in drug dealing.
“I look back at it now and I’m such a jerk to be honest that I didn’t see it,” she said. “I really thought I was actually going with this girl … we were told to get documents and I figured he couldn’t send her alone because he didn’t want her to go overseas alone.”
On April 2, 2017, she boarded an international flight at Adelaide Airport. But the final destination on the ticket wasn’t London, it was Bogota, the capital of Colombia.
“I didn’t know where Bogotá was,” she said.
And even more worrisome, she had a flight from Los Angeles to Colombia, but no one-way.
So she called Joshua, only to be told everything was fine and it was still just a “minor hiccup.”
Sainsbury said she kept going “because I didn’t know how to get home”.
“I was told that I was being followed and that something bad could happen to me if I didn’t go through with their plan,” she said.
On April 3rd she arrived in Bogota and was accommodated in a cheap hotel. She met a man named Angelo who said he knew Joshua and asked her to take a package.
“I said, ‘Well, what’s the package? Because I’ve never taken packages.” And he said, ‘Well, that’s not really something you need to have all the details about,'” Sainsbury said.
Terrified, Sainsbury said she had started looking for flights abroad. But it only made things worse for her, she said.
When she left the travel agency where she had been looking for a way home, Angelo was standing outside. He put her in his car, took her to his apartment and gave her a sip of water that made her feel like she had no control over her body.
Then, she says, Angelo raped her.
“I think that makes it worse. The fact that I knew what was going on but couldn’t do anything,” Sainsbury said.
“I saw no way out”
On April 11, Sainsbury’s life would change forever.
Angelo came to her hotel room with a heavy bag and told her he would take her to the airport.
Sainsbury said she didn’t look inside the bag, which was sealed with duct tape, but knew what was inside: cocaine.
“I couldn’t see a way out,” she said.
What happened next catapulted her into the Australian public consciousness. When she went to the airport, she was arrested – and in Australia she became known as “Cocaine Cassie”.
“It’s absolutely one of the worst things,” said Sainsbury. “That’s not my name. It’s not who I am.”
Her own father even wrote a letter to the judge asking that Sainsbury receive the maximum sentence of 22 to 30 years in prison, Sainsbury said.
But the judge was lenient. He sentenced her to six years and a $130,000 fine.
Still, life in prison was not easy. Sainsbury said she saw people being stabbed and others taking their own lives.
“It was awful,” she said. “It gets to the point where you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s hard.”
During her stay in Colombia, she met two Australian federal police officers – and told them everything she knew right from the start.
“I told them what happened from the start. I told them it was most likely something to do with the brothel in Sydney. And I was told they would investigate,” she said.
“If I say that this all happened and it all goes back to the day I went to that brothel, why didn’t they at least investigate?”
A few weeks ago Sainsbury arrived back in Adelaide – the first time she has been back since she left on that fateful flight.
“It feels like I’ve matured a lot. I see the city differently, I see the state differently, I see everything differently now,” she said.
Now she has a drug conviction to her name. But she’s also found love with Tatiana, a 34-year-old computer engineer.
After three years in prison, Sainsbury was released early. Because she was on probation, she couldn’t leave Colombia, so she worked as an English teacher to earn a living, she says.
In a nightclub, she met Tatiana, who at first was unaware of Sainsbury’s conviction. On their second date, Sainsbury shared her story.
“She told me it was my past and she couldn’t judge me by my past because everyone has a past,” Sainsbury said.
The couple married on a private island five months ago – and Tatiana’s family have accepted Sainsbury’s.
“They were actually very easygoing … I treat Tatiana well, I’m loyal to her, and they said as long as I take care of their daughter, that was basically (it),” Sainsbury said.
She is still estranged from her father despite trying to push her bad blood aside.
“I definitely didn’t expect him to turn against me and become one of the internet haters that I have so many of,” she said. “I think that’s probably the hardest part because at the end of the day I’m still his daughter. I’m not saying he has to put up with what I did. But I’m still his daughter.”
Sainsbury says she has changed a lot.
“Being so scared and going through what I’ve been through made me realize that I can’t be scared, that I can stand up for myself. And I’ve learned to do it,” she said. “I’m not the scared little person I was six years ago.”
https://7news.com.au/news/crime/cocaine-cassie-exposes-sydneys-dark-drug-underbelly-revealing-she-made-up-to-15-drug-drops-a-week-c-8082816 “Cocaine Cassie” exposes Sydney’s dark side, revealing she was doing up to 15 drug drops a week