June 19, 2024

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Ray Lachapelle’s cocaine addiction was an open secret among colleagues, clients and staff. It was an addiction so severe he lost his liberty and now his license to practice law.

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In a Feb. 24 ruling, the Law Society of Ontario’s disciplinary tribunal revoked Lachapelle’s license, effective immediately, for conduct unbecoming — notably his role in a 2017 conspiracy to import more than a tonne of cocaine from Colombia to Canada.

The Hawkesbury-based lawyer was found guilty in a Halifax court in 2018 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

The Mounties dubbed the project “Operation Halfpenny” and Lapachelle and others were arrested after an 18-month international drug-trafficking investigation that began in Cape Breton but had tentacles across the country.

The scheme shut down by the RCMP also ended in a raid that yielded more than 25 firearms — including three prohibited weapons — a significant quantity of ammunition, a stolen car, a large amount of hash, cash and tactical equipment.

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Lachapelle was arrested in 2017 along with accomplices in Nova Scotia. Days later, while on bail, he was back at his Hawkesbury law office serving clients.

The Law Society later investigated the cocaine case and has now revoked its license.

It’s not the first time the lawyer has come under scrutiny by the law society.

Lachapelle was found guilty of misconduct back in 1999 after he misappropriated $71,000 from the estate of his late great-aunt to pay for his cocaine addiction.

After hearing about his drug addiction, the law society panel decided against disbarring him and instead gave Lachapelle a two-month suspension.

In that 1999 decision, the law society panel said Lachapelle’s drug addiction wasn’t a secret – “it appeared that most of his clients, much of the greater Hawkesbury community, all of his staff, and the entire local legal community knew of his addiction .”

The disgraced lawyer is serving his prison sentence and is banned from practicing law once released.

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