Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Quebec man denies wrongdoing in sex-trade bust

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A Quebec construction worker and part-time strip-club bodyguard took the witness stand in his own defence today and denied pimping out two young women and plying them with cocaine inside a Winnipeg hotel.

Jonathan Allard of Lachute, Que. has been in custody in Manitoba since the morning of June 17, when police arrested him in a room at the Humphry Inn and Suites at 260 Main St.

The beefy 35-year-old has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including living off the avails of prostitution, possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and obstructing justice.

City police were called to the hotel to follow up a tip from Montreal RCMP. A sister of one of the alleged victims had e-mailed her local detachment to say her relative was being held in Winnipeg against her will. Police found evidence of sex-trade work and about two grams of cocaine on a table after they turned up to check on her well-being, court was told.

Allard was arrested in one of three Humphry Inn suites police searched in connection to the investigation. Police found his name on hotel receipts seized from two different rooms, Const. Kevin Pleskatch of the counter-exploitation unit testified today.

In one room was nearly $1,400 in cash. In another, police found an estimated two grams of powder cocaine sitting on a TV stand. Opened boxes of condoms were also found in two of three rooms, Pleskatch said.

Allard admits driving the 19-year-old women to Winnipeg from Ottawa (they hail originally from Quebec) at the behest of an unnamed escort agency owner, but said he was only to act as their bodyguard. They came with him voluntarily and they paid for the gas and hotel bills, Allard told Judge Tracey Lord.

"They was all happy… posing pictures on Facebook — they was all OK with that," Allard said. French is his first language. On arrival in Winnipeg, one of the women asked him if he could find them some cocaine, Allard said. He rebuffed the request. "I cannot help you with that," he says he told her.

Allard, a bodybuilder, said he met up with a Winnipeg friend and they worked out together in the hotel's gym. Afterwards, he, his pal and the women shared pizza and wine in one of the rooms. It was his friend that brought cocaine and the women used it with him after he said he wanted to "bust a line," Allard said.

Allard denied doing any drugs, but admitted he had used cocaine in the past, and sometimes steroids to enhance his physique.

It was the women who bought the cocaine from his friend, whom Allard didn't identify, for about $200, he said.

Allard faces cross-examination by the Crown this afternoon.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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