A 59-year-old dental hygienist reportedly joined one of New Zealand's largest drug syndicates in order to be closer to her son, who was one of the group’s top lieutenants.
Mirtha Susan Ramos Mazuela was ordered to serve 11 years and six months in prison on Friday after being arrested alongside her son Hugo Patricio Alarcon Ramos early last year, Stuff reports. The pair’s arrest was part of an eight-month police investigation called Operation Mystic. New Zealand authorities believe the international syndicate imported drugs worth up to $5 million into the country over the course of three years – including over a tonne of methamphetamine, cocaine, ephedrine and MDMA.
Ramos Mazuela was brought into the syndicate as a “storewoman” – a role in which she stockpiled money and drugs, re-packaged them and delivered them to runners – after her son became the group’s “primary storeman.” And according to her defence counsel Quentin Duff, the only financial compensation Ramos Mazuela received for her part in this global criminal enterprise was $150 per week for rent and petrol.
“The payoff appeared to be merely proximity to her son,” Duff told the judge, according to the New Zealand Herald, arguing that Ramos Mazuela was “naive” and “vulnerable” and had been manipulated and exploited by Alarcon Ramos. “It was her vulnerability and her ignorance that come into play,” he said, further claiming that “her son was directing her actions” and that she was “almost an abused participant.”
Justice Grant Powell accepted that this was partly true, but rejected the suggestion that Ramos Mazuela was as naive as she said.
“You clearly had a significant operational function with the syndicate in Auckland, and inevitably you must have had significant awareness and understanding of the scale of the operation you were involved in,” he told her. “I don’t accept you’ve fully faced up to the role and the misery you’ve helped to bring to the people of New Zealand.”
Ramos Mazuela previously pleaded guilty to 12 charges involving importing, selling and possessing methamphetamine, cocaine, ephedrine and MDMA, as well as an additional charge of possessing materials for the manufacture of methamphetamine. All sentences will be served concurrently, and she must serve at least 40 per cent of her term before being eligible for parole.
Multiple other members of the syndicate are set to go on trial later this year – including the alleged kingpin, who was arrested at the Italian border in February 2020 and has since been extradited back to New Zealand to face charges.
More than a million dollars in cash, as well as several high end vehicles and firearms – including a military-grade rifle – were also seized as part of Operation Mystic, according to a statement from New Zealand authorities. At the time, Detective Inspector Paul Newman celebrated the sting as a major victory in New Zealand’s war on drugs.
“New Zealanders are using about 13 kilograms of methamphetamine a week according to recent wastewater analysis, so a tonne of methamphetamine or its precursor ephedrine equates to more than a year’s worth of national consumption,” he said in February last year. “By arresting and stopping this syndicate’s key player, along with his alleged associates, it will go a long way to reducing the amount of this drug being imported into New Zealand, and preventing the harm it causes to our communities.”
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