American jailed, partner remanded over attempt to smuggle cocaine to US

By Shakisa Harvey

An American woman was yesterday sentenced to four years in jail after she confessed to having over 4.130 kilos of cocaine in a false bottom of her suitcase while being an outbound passenger at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, destined for the United States.

Social worker Brianna Rodney, 25, an American citizen by birth, of Lot 2121 Westbury Court, Brooklyn 11225 USA, who had been in Guyana on four previous occasions before her last arrival on March 12, maintained her guilty plea even after Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry inquired if she was aware of the penalty the offence carries. “Ma’am, I was fully aware of what I was carrying and in possession of,” Rodney said, when asked if there was anything she wished to say to the court.

Rodney had been arrested on July 3 along with her alleged co-conspirator, Andre Gustav, who was also charged yesterday with the same offence.

Gustav, 24, of Freddie Street, Vryheid’s Lust, denied the allegation that he was found with 4.130 kg of cocaine and was remanded to prison until July 15 for report and fixture of a date for the commencement of his trial. Gustav was described by Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) prosecutor Oswald Massiah as the “architect/engineer” of the smuggling and also the person who arranged the mode of transportation.

Rodney was said to be in a close relationship with Gustav, who allegedly made arrangements to have the substance taken to the USA.

According to Massiah, she had been staying at different addresses with Guyanese she was associated with but her last known address was at a hotel on Sheriff Street.

It was during her stay here that Rodney arranged with her Guyanese associates to take the illegal substance to the USA for a fee, after it would have “cannoned” (term used to describe a successful landing and clearance of an illegal substance).

Massiah said that on July 3, Rodney changed the suitcase that she brought to Guyana, on the pretext that it was damaged. Rodney swapped her supposedly damaged suitcase with one provided by Gustav that contained the cocaine, he said, while adding that Rodney packed the suitcase and was subsequently escorted to the Airport, where she checked in the suitcase.

However, upon inspection, a CANU officer observed a strange object therein and as a result Rodney was summoned. After claiming the suitcase, Rodney supplied the key to open it so it could be subjected to a search and the cocaine was found within encased in six packets.

Massiah said Rodney was then arrested after being told of the offence and cautioned. The suitcase and the substance were meanwhile taken into CANU headquarters, where Rodney voluntarily gave a detailed explanation of the arrangements.

Stemming from additional information received from Rodney, the court heard that CANU conducted further investigations which saw to other persons being questioned, including Gustav. Other charges are likely to be made, Massiah said.

In handing down the four year sentence to Rodney, the magistrate said that at her age, she is taken to know the consequences of her actions. She noted also the seriousness and prevalence of the offence and the quantum of the substance found.

At the same time, the magistrate noted that Rodney pleaded guilty at the first given opportunity, saving the court time in otherwise having to conduct a trial. In addition, she also considered the fact that Rodney had no prior convictions or pending matters before the court.

In addition to the four year sentence, Rodney was also fined $30,000.

“…I saw an opportunity Ma’am and I took it. It is one which I am sorry for. I have my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, a sister and two brothers who are in college.

My mother and myself are what you would call the sole providers. I am sorry for what I did and I am asking if you could please be lenient with me,” she told the court.

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