First person in B.C. ever charged with human trafficking gets stiff sentence.
Reza Moazami has been sentenced to 23 years behind bars.
But according to Global BC, he will receive credit for time served. That brings his time in prison down to about 17 years.
Moazami is responsible for luring young girls into prostitution. At the time of the offences, nine of the girls were underage.
He was found to have pimped out the girls dating back to 2009, keeping them in high-end hotels and condos in downtown Vancouver, Richmond and North Vancouver, and using drugs and threats to keep them in line.
He was convicted a year ago of 30 charges, mostly sexual assault and human trafficking, a first in B.C.
The Crown says all the victims have declined to make impact statements, but their tragic trial testimony speaks volumes.
The hearing is expected to last four days. His defence lawyer is expected to make arguments on Tuesday.
Timeline of Reza Moazami investigation
- Reza Moazami iss arrested at a local brothel on Vancouver’s west side, his arrest was the culmination of a police investigation called “Project Sabr”.
“Sabr quickly developed into an investigation into juvenile prostitution and suspected inter-provincial human trafficking. Currently, he’s the only person charged.” – Sgt. Rich Akin, 2011
- 27-years-old at the time, Moazami faces 18 charges, including four counts of human trafficking, and is accused of forcing at least 11 girls aged 14 to 19 to work as prostitutes in Metro Vancouver.
- He becomes the first person ever charged in B.C. with trafficking minors.
- Vancouver police say the young women were threatened with violence, and not willing participants in the sex trade, and that the offences had occurred between February 2009 and October 2011.
- Now facing 36 charges linked to the sex trafficking of teenage girls, Moazami’s bail gets revoked when he’s picked up for violating his conditions of release and allegedly tries to contact one of the victims
- More charges are laid against him.
- Trial begins.
- Crown argues Moazami targeted the 11 girls as young as 14 because they were vulnerable: that he lured them with promises of a glamourous lifestyle living in downtown condos, while the reality was that some of the girls were living in high-end apartments without access to keys, and their home was actually used to turn many tricks per day, some never seeing any of the money.
- One girl reported bringing in as much as $2000/day. Crown also says Moazami had 11 condos in Metro Vancouver for his business until he was arrested in October of 2011.
October 1, 2013
- One of 11 girls expected to testify takes the witness stand in Supreme Court , outlining a difficult life while under the control of her alleged pimp. Under cross-examination, the witness is asked whether she chose to sleep with people for money, and she answers yes.
- She also admits Moazami never hit her, but says she was forced to sleep with people she didn’t want to sleep with, and claims she and other alleged victims were manipulated to believe the police were bad.
- The woman also agreed she continued working for two other people after the time she worked for Moazami.
October 18, 2013
- Another young woman to testify on the witness stand recants her initial statements made to police, insisting she no longer remembers the contents of emails and text messages she sent three years ago describing her fear of the accused.
- The then-19 year old, who is protected by a publication ban, denies telling a friend she couldn’t leave because she owed Moazami money and she felt ‘completely owned.’
- She claims she never had sex with men in exchange for money, but only for her time, and says she’s offended by any suggestion she was a prostitute.
- Moazami takes the stand. He testifies he had no idea that 9 of his alleged 11 victims were underage.
- Under cross-examination he also insists he doesn’t remember sending messages telling one girl to go back to foster care, offering to sell another girl to a rival pimp, nor promising a recruiter $250 dollars for every girl brought to him.
- He also denies spraying one of the alleged victims with bear mace, but admits he used to keep tabs on them, and their clients, by installing a hidden camera in a teddy bear.
- During his second day on the stand, Moazami denies he held a knife to the throat of one victim in 2010.
- He says he agreed to plead guilty to a charge of assault causing bodily harm because that victim, whom he considered his girlfriend, was alleging he was her pimp and he didn’t want his mother hearing that evidence. Moazami also denies he dangled the same girl off the balcony of a high-rise apartment in 2009, insisting she climbed over herself because she was threatening to commit suicide.
- During closing submissions before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce, his lawyer suggests Moazami had no idea many of the young women working ‘with’ and not ‘for’ him, were under age.
- His lawyer doesn’t deny the accused was living off the avails of prostitution, but claims he never ‘controlled’ sex trade workers.
- Moazami found guilty of 30 charges involving the operation of an underage prostitution ring in Vancouver, Richmond and North Vancouver. He gets acquitted on one count of human trafficking because the victim recants her story.
- The lead investigator, Vancouver police detective Jim Fisher says Vancouver’s sex trade is not ‘all about consenting adults’:
“One of the girls said to us that you don’t always have to be chained to the bed. You’re chained up in other ways. Another girl was saying it’s like being locked up in a kennel and she was his little dog and would do what he said to do.”
- Local advocates for victims of sexual abuse applaud the conviction.
- At the time, Hilla Kirner with the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter says she hopes it’s the first of many investigations targeting pimps and johns rather than sex trade workers:
“This is only one man who got caught and got charged, but it’s not a rare phenomenon at all, so we do hope that everybody will pay attention to this case and will treat it as an educative source to what happened to women and girls in prostitution.”
- Moazami drops his lawyer and his sentencing is postponed for ten months. He remains in custody until sentenced.
- While awaiting sentencing at the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre in Surrey, Moazami complains that he’s going hungry and wants more food.
- His lawyer suggests he be given two lunches, so he can save one for later in the day when he’s traveling back and forth to court appearances in Downtown Vancouver.
- The stall tactics continue when Reza Moazami fires his two lawyers before day two of his hearing can even begin.
- But reminding him that it has been a year since his conviction and the delays have all been his doing, Justice Barnes warns Moazami his sentencing will resume mid-October whether he keeps his newest lawyer or not.