Four drug traffickers, one of whom is a former New York City model, were sentenced on federal drug charges last week for importing cocaine into Australia on a trip that was put together by an ex-Vice Media editor.
The men, disc jockey Jordan Mykel Gardner, music promoter Robert Wang, event manager Kutiba Senusi and model Nathaniel Brandon Carty, were given their sentence in the NSW District Court in Australia. Their prison terms were from three years and four months to up to four years.
They were sentenced for drug trafficking at least 44 pounds of cocaine with a value of $16 million or more. A total of 61 pounds of cocaine was seized by the police during the drug bust. This action also ended in the arrest of Porscha Wade, who is a 20 year old who pleaded guilty but has not been sentenced at this time.
The four men arrested had been attempting to make it in the arts scene in Toronto when they were first approached by Slava Pastuk. He worked at that time as the music editor at Vice Magazine. He allegedly asked the men to be drug mules.
Carty, who was a model in the past for companies including Puma, Adidas and Coca-Cola, was reported to have told Pastuk at one of Vice’s parties that he had always wanted to go to Australia. Pastuk told him that he could make it happen.
It is alleged that Carty was told to take suitcases from the US into Australia. Later he was charged with drug possession of at least 10 pounds of cocaine worth nearly $4 million.
Judge Dina Yehia noted that Carty was probably the most naive of all of the drug offenders for believing that he was being given a ‘free’ trip to Australia. A mutual friend later told Carty that more luggage would be needed to go with him on the trip.
The judge stated that she was of the opinion that the four men were exploited by drug dealers and traffickers who were persistent and manipulative in recruiting them to smuggle drugs. She also said that she considered Carty’s lack of a criminal background and immaturity when she gave him a lesser prison sentence, noting that he was out of his depth.
In one account, Gardner, who roomed with Pastuk at the time, repeatedly refused to carry cocaine for him. Eventually, he did agree when Pastuk called him just before he was supposed to perform at an event. Pastuk had already gotten his passport and was threatening to harm Gardner’s girlfriend and family if he did not smuggle the drugs. Gardner also said that he overheard Pastuk telling his friend about people who had been killed and tortured for helping the police. He thought that Pastuk had connections to a Mexican drug cartel.
Gardner told the court that he tried to get out of the drug smuggling and trafficking operation in Las Vegas. He was given several suitcases to take to Australia. He noticed that the suitcases smelled like glue. At that time, his contact physically grabbed him and shoved him against a car while holding a gun. Gardner then agreed to smuggle the drugs.
Senusi, who also offered testimony in court, stated that he was only accompanying his friend on the journey, but was then threatened to participate in the drug running. If Senusi did not go on the trip, the friend stated that he could not assure his safety or the safety of his brother.
Wang for his part said that he agreed to smuggle the cocaine so that Pastuk would think well of him. Pastuk had promised to help him with his music career. He also was threatened with harm when he said he did not want to smuggle the cocaine.
Gardner, who is in the band Ebony, was originally arrested in December 2015 at Sydney Airport in Australia. He was charged with importing a commercial amount of a border controlled drug, cocaine, after the police found at least $5 million US in the group’s luggage.
Before Gardner was sentenced, his supporters in the Toronto music scene circulated a petition to encourage people to write character references for him to influence the judge. They argued that Gardner is kind, loving and gentle and that this type of offense was out of character for him.
According to a Vice spokesperson, Pastuk was promptly fired after an investigation by the magazine. He earlier had served as editor of the online publication Noisey, which is also owned by Vice. A few months after he was fired, Pastuk allegedly tweeted that journalists are ‘professional snitches.’
Meanwhile, police in Toronto recently reopened an investigation into Patuk due to allegations that he was trying to recruit artists and journalists into a cocaine trafficking ring while he was working for Noisey in Toronto.