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Report: Vice Music Editor Allegedly Tried to Turn Writers Into Drug Mules

A former music editor at Vice Canada has been accused of trying to recruit a handful of young employees and contractors at the company to be drug smugglers, the National Post reports. Yaroslav Pastukhov, who went by the name Slava Pastuk, reportedly offered to pay at least three current or former Vice journalists $10,000 to bring luggage lined with drugs to Australia from Las Vegas.

Pastukhov, 26, worked as editor of Noisey Canada from early 2014 until last February, when he was reportedly fired after employees spoke up about his alleged involvement in what appears to be an international drug smuggling ring.

The majority of the alleged recruiting that the Post learned about took place in Vice Canada’s offices over the popular intra-company chat communication system Slack. One full time staffer told the Post that Pastukhov invited her to coffee over Slack sometime in fall 2015. Later that day, they met and she said he brought up the scheme, which involved her traveling from Vegas to Australia with a suitcase–he refused to say what was inside–and getting $10,000 in cash when she returned home. Several weeks later she told the Post she was fired for unrelated reasons, after which she said Pastukhov again propositioned her, this time via text.

Around the same time, Pastukhov reportedly attempted to recruit an intern at Noisey to participate in the scheme. Again, he allegedly contacted the intern over Slack and again he asked him to a nearby cafe, where he explained a practically identical plan—a trip to Australia from Vegas with a briefcase, and $10,000 upon return. From the Post:

“He said, basically, ‘All you got to do is you take this trip to Las Vegas and then Australia. You stay two weeks in Las Vegas, two weeks in Australia.’

“‘The person you bring with you has to be a kind of pretty girl, white preferably, shorter than you. And you guys can’t drink or get high while you’re in these places,’” he alleges Pastukhov said.

“‘And then you just come back and all you got to do is just carry a suitcase with you the entire time and I’ll give you $10,000 when you get back.’”

The intern said he believed he was being asked to smuggle drugs.

“I’m not an idiot. I’ve been around drug dealers in my life. I asked him what’s in the suitcase and he wouldn’t tell me.”

A freelancer for the website also told the Post that Pastukhov approached her about a similar deal, but only after telling her to invoice the company more for her work than the agreed-upon amount in an apparent scam to see if she could be trusted. After she did so, she said she received a Facebook message from him

“I have an opportunity for you that would be perfect. Free trip to Australia,” it reads, according to the Post. “It’s a trip to Australia for a week and a half. It’s free, with spending money, and you gte 10k upon return.”

She replied and asked for more info, assuming it was a big music assignment. Pastukhov then reportedly asked her to switch to text, where he sent her the following message: “U go to Vegas with a friend, you each get two bags (4 total) and there’s stuff in the lining (undetectable) and go to Australia where those bags get picked up. 10k on return.” She said she was disappointed and refused the offer.

“I think he just targeted all the young people there,” she told the Post.

One acquaintance of Pastukhov’s wasn’t so lucky. Jordan Gardner, a DJ and close friend of Pastukhov’s, was pressured into the scheme, according to friends and family members who spoke with the Post. He eventually agreed, but later tried to drop out, at which point someone else involved reportedly warned him that his loved ones were in danger.

In Las Vegas, Gardner again reportedly tried to abandon the operation after seeing the hastily constructed suitcase. Again, he was allegedly threatened, this time by a man with a gun who told him something along the lines of “we’re gonna get your girlfriend and your parents, we know where they live,” according to Eidan Havas, legal counsel to Gardner in Australia. Once he arrived in Australia, border control officers found 37 kilos of cocaine in Garnder’s bags. He and three others later pleaded guilty on charges of smuggling commercial quantity of cocaine, which carries a potential life sentence.

After learning of the allegations, Vice Canada retained the Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison to investigate Pastukhov’s actions. “Our internal investigation, conducted by counsel, made contact with (Toronto police),” a Vice representative told the Post. “However, we’re not going to provide any further comment on that aspect out of respect for any potential ongoing police investigation.”

Representatives from the Toronto police told the Post they had no record of communication with the publishing giant. “To this date, we have not found any reports of this nature from them contacting police,” Const. David Hopkinson said.

Read the entire insane story at The National Post.