'Ashamed': multi-millionaire's daughter speaks of her role in $14m drug-smuggling operation

The daughter of a multi-millionaire Sydney businesswoman says she is "ashamed" of her role in helping her Mexican lover import kilograms of ice into Australia but says she was drawn into it because of love.

Rose Thomas has admitted to aiding and abetting her girlfriend, Norma Zuniga Frias, in importing 15.9 kilograms of pure methamphetamine valued at $14 million in March 2018.

Thomas helped Frias by purchasing backpacks and scales to divide up the drug shipment, which had been concealed inside speaker boxes and stashed at an Airbnb apartment under fake names.

Frias was to be paid $15,000 to receive the packages from a contact in Mexico before the pair were arrested by police in their Marrickville share house.


At a sentencing hearing in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court on Friday, Thomas – the daughter of online publisher Jackie Maxted – said that as soon as she arrived at the rented apartments in Rozelle and saw the speaker boxes, she was overwhelmed and did not want to be there.

She told the court she had no idea about the quantity or type of drugs being imported and originally thought it was cocaine.

"As soon as I stepped in there, I wanted to leave," she told the sentencing hearing. "I was preparing to tell Norma I didn't want to be there anymore."

Thomas, 26, has been convicted of aiding and abetting an attempt to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported, border-controlled drug. She has been on $100,000 bail awaiting sentencing and living with her mother at her Bondi home.

Frias, who has pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of methamphetamine, has been in custody since their March 2018 arrest.

"I feel ashamed of having had anything to do with it," Thomas told the court. "I see anything in the drug trade as a completely greedy act.

"It's something that millions or thousands of people lose their lives to every year. It's been horrible on my family and friends and everyone around me."

Ms Maxted told the court her daughter and Frias had been "very happy and in love" at the time of the offence. She said when her daughter came out of prison on bail she was "frail and scared".

"She said that she's extremely disappointed in herself, and bewildered as to why she didn't stop it," Ms Maxted said.

"She wants to get her life back on track, to make amends for the mistakes she's made and live a normal life."

Thomas' lawyer, Phillip Boulten SC, said his client had been drawn into it through love and that "she could barely have done less".

Judge Richard Weinstein said that "in the haze of young love, things are often done which seem absurd after reflection".

Crown prosecutor Robert McCaw said that while he accepted that Ms Thomas' actions were at the "lower end" of this type of crime, a prison sentence with a non-parole period was needed to send a message to the community.

Frias' lawyer, Malcolm Ramage QC, said his client had "lost the lot" and her conviction had already limited "her life dramatically".

She faces deportation to Mexico after she is released.

The pair had become romantically involved after Frias arrived in Sydney in early 2017 on a student visa. She had spent holidays in Tasmania with Thomas and her family over Christmas.

They were "extremely close", Thomas told the court.

"We were inseparable I'd say … I was deeply in love with her. It was my world at that time," she said.

They did not speak during proceedings on Friday.

The hearing is expected to resume on July 12.

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