Editorial note: This article contains information regarding investigations into sex trafficking and human trafficking in Ontario, including sensitive content that may be triggering and/or distressing to readers.
Less than a year after he was arrested alongside three other men from his home province of Quebec in a multi-provincial human trafficking sting, Ralph Marc Lauren Andre, 23, has been released on bail.
This was not Andre’s first bail hearing, however. His first bail hearing occurred in mid-December 2021, less than two months after his arrest in a high-profile human trafficking ring investigation. This investigation culminated in 43 charges being laid against four men arrested by Kingston Police and the Provincial Human Trafficking Intelligence-led Joint Forces Strategy (IJFS). Specifically, Andre was arrested as part of Project WRIGG, which began with a Kingston Police investigation into the sexual assault and trafficking of a female victim from Kingston, who was trafficked across Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton from December 2019 to January 2020, according to police at the time of the arrest.
According to court documents, Andre’s original bail application was denied. In that application, the defence had proposed 24-hour supervision of Andre by his father and stepmother, with no access to phones or the internet. This plan would have seen Andre living with his parents at an undisclosed location outside of Montreal, with their 11-year-old son.
But the judge hearing the application, the Honourable Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin, “found the proposed surety to not be credible” and noted the “substantial likelihood of [Andre’s] reoffending.” Given that Andre lived with his family when the initial alleged offences of sexually assaulting, trafficking, and exploiting women occurred, the judge did not believe that Andre’s parents would be any more in tune with their son’s activities than they had been during the time the initial offences allegedly occurred, the court documents detail.
“The bottom line is they [the parents] do not appear to be close in terms of being open about problems or [their] son’s activities,” Justice O’Bonsawin stated in her findings, which also noted that police had discovered evidence of communications between Andre and Benson Pierre, who was arrested with Andre and was allegedly involved in the human trafficking operations. According to court documents, those communications, which occurred after both men were arrested, “demonstrated evidence of involvement in a large-scale human trafficking enterprise.”
The court also detailed the fine line that must be walked to ensure that justice is properly upheld. While the numerous charges against Andre are very serious – many carrying a maximum sentence of 10+ years if he were convicted – and while the court must consider “whether public confidence in the administration of justice is capable of being maintained,” it is also the court’s responsibility to assume innocence until a suspect is convicted.
“The entitlement to reasonable bail as guaranteed by the Charter is linked to one of the cornerstones of our criminal justice system, which is the presumption of innocence. A bail judge must be satisfied that interim detention is truly justified, having regard to all the relevant circumstances of the case,” court documents detailed.
The fact that Andre is “just 23 years old, has no criminal record… and that he has spent seven months in custody with one-third of that time spent in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic” was also noted in the initial bail hearing, as well as the most recent one, which occurred in June 2022.
At that June 2022 bail hearing, the defence presented the court with a new surety plan. Andre’s new surety would be a Ms. Di Lallo, a woman in her 50s with a 20-year-old son. Di Lallo works from home and is known to Andre and his family, the court heard:
“She knows Mr. Andre through working with his father, Marcel Andre, and has met [Ralph Marc Lauren] Andre on two prior occasions. She met Marcel Andre when he was working at a palliative care facility. Ms. Di Lallo’s father was dying, and Mr. Marcel Andre cared for him. She later came to know Mr. Marcel Andre better and does accounting data entry work for his accounting firm,” court documents read.
However, at the same time, “while Ms. Di Lallo knows [Ralph Marc Lauren] Andre and his family, she is at arm’s length from him,” noted Justice Anne London-Weinstein, the judge overseeing the second bail hearing.
“I have zero doubt that she will enforce the terms of bail imposed,” London-Weinstein continued.
In her findings, Justice London-Weinstein detailed her reasons for finding Di Lallo to be an appropriate surety. These included:
- A 24-hour daily supervision plan “in a house where the electronics are not only limited in number, but tightly controlled.” (“This is important as Mr. Andre must have no access to the internet while existing in a world where the internet and online life is everywhere,” London-Weinstein noted.)
- A GPS monitoring bracelet to be worn by Andre.
- A $15,000 cash pledge and $5,000 as a general pledge on behalf of Di Lallo. (“This is a significant amount of money for her,” the judge noted.)
“Ms. Di Lallo said that she would treat Mr. Andre ‘like a purse’ in that wherever she goes, he must go with her. I believe her. She testified that Mr. Andre has agreed to all of the conditions which are proposed. She is fully aware of the charges facing Mr. Andre. She is fully aware that this matter will take a long time to reach a conclusion,” Justice London-Weinstein wrote in her findings.
“Ms. Di Lallo testified that Mr. Andre will not be permitted to have guests, nor will he be able to have access to the internet in any fashion. There are two computers and two cell phones in the house. Ms. Di Lallo testified that she works in the living room. Her son locks his door. Both Ms. Di Lallo and her son will keep their laptops and phones with them at all times in order that Mr. Andre not be able to access the internet. There are motion sensors on the doors, a doorbell with a camera and a glass breaking sensor on all of the windows. These security measures report a breach of security to the police station.”
Finally, the judge expressed confidence in the proposed surety and plan, noting that Andre is “fortunate to have access to a new surety.”
“Ms. Di Lallo testified in a straightforward and credible manner. I accepted her evidence. There is no basis to reject her evidence that if Mr. Andre breaches the terms of his release that she would report him to the authorities,” London-Weinstein concluded.
“In this case… I am satisfied that a well informed and reasonable member of the public, conversant with our system of bail and Charter principles, and knowing that release is the rule and detention the exception in our system of bail, would not lose confidence in the administration of justice by the release of Mr. Andre on very strict conditions today.”
For more information on the orginal sex trafficking case and arrest, as well as the IJSF, Operation WRIGG, human trafficking in Kingston and the area, and victim services, please see Kingstonist’s original coverage from December 2021. A full copy of the court documents around Andre’s bail hearing and release can be viewed here.