On August 28, 2016, in Australia, two Quebecers, Isabelle Lagacé and Mélina Roberge, were arrested on board a luxury cruise ship and accused of trafficking cocaine. The news is making headlines all over the world. In the media and elsewhere, young women are dragged through the mud. But how did they come to join a network of traffickers? The documentary series Cocaine, prison & likes: The true story of Isabelle answers this question.

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Several journalists as well as relatives and friends of Isabelle testify in the series. They paint the portrait of a funny, intelligent and authentic young woman, a woman of character who stands out. At the beginning of the show, Isabelle indicates that no one asks her about what happened to her, because people believe that she is tired of talking about it. She is therefore telling her story for the first time and does so willingly, even if the evocation of the events gives her the impression of reliving them and brings up a lot of emotions. Isabelle was born in Montreal and grew up on the South Shore — in “a good family with good values,” she points out. She takes full responsibility for her actions. She was in trouble and wanted to fend for herself, not realizing that her family and friends were ready to help her. At the time, she did not tell them about her problems and now feels that she has let them down.

Life is a party

In 2008, Isabelle met Jennyfer Doyon Fortier. They become inseparable and party every night. Unfortunately, Isabelle also meets toxic people on her way. In 2012, she moved in with her lover, who turned out to be manipulative and violent. He also exploits her financially. She has a hard time escaping his grip. Subsequently, she becomes the girlfriend of Alexandre Ovallé, an ex-convict. She is in love with him, but he is not ready to commit.

In 2015, Isabelle is employed in a bar. His job is to encourage people to party and drink alcohol. At first, this task amuses him, but it quickly turns out to be exhausting. Isabelle is depressed, uses drugs and alcohol. She spends lavishly and gets heavily into debt. She wants to change her life. His dream is to start an Asian restaurant open 24 hours a day, an impossible project when you are penniless.

The trap

According to journalist Caroline Touzin, of The Press, girls exploited by criminal networks are often vulnerable. If, for example, their first romantic relationship is toxic, it leaves traces. In addition, bars are often frequented by criminals. Montreal, where organized crime is powerful, is a drug capital. It is therefore not surprising that Isabelle, who frequents this environment, makes the acquaintance of traffickers there. Thus, she is offered $100,000 and a luxury cruise, worth about $20,000, if she agrees to carry cocaine. In addition, we will repay his debts. She accepts. Two months before the cruise, Isabelle goes to Morocco, where the traffickers have invited her. There, she meets Mélissa Roberge, another nightlife enthusiast, who has a habit of dating older men in order to be spoiled. Her sugar daddy of the moment manipulated her in such a way as to make her collaborate. The two young women will get along well on the boat, but will never become intimate.


Isabelle does not talk about her plan to those around her. She only tells her father of her departure the day before she takes the plane. At the airport, she finds Mélissa and meets the four strangers who are leaving with them. One of them is André Tamine, 63, who will be charged with them but seems to have escaped justice. There is also a man named Michel Chiasson. The names of the other two will never be known.

Travelers land in England, where the Sea Princess departs for the 49-night cruise that will end in Australia. Isabelle and Mélissa are the youngest people on board, by far: the average age of passengers is around 75 years old. Obviously, everyone notices them and wonders how they could afford such a trip. But the ideal mules are discreet people who do not attract attention. The criminals made a mistake.

The Sea Princess stops for the first time, in Nova Scotia, and a disturbing thing happens: Canada Border Services agents get on the boat and search the girls’ cabin, without finding anything. They are unaware that Michel Chiasson went down to earth shortly before… The dice are cast.

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