Alleged human trafficker exploited victims as young as 14
29-year-old Reza Moazami faces numerous charges
A glamorous lifestyle of drugs and booze, the chance to live in downtown Vancouver and the companionship of a pet dog were all promises used by a Vancouver man to lure 11 teenagers into prostitution, a B.C. Supreme Court trial heard Wednesday.
Crown lawyer Damienne Darby told the court that 29-year-old Reza Moazami allegedly preyed on girls as young as 14 years old, convincing them to have sex for money between February 2009 and October 2011.
"These were so-called at-risk girls and he recruited them for prostitution for his own financial benefit," Darby said in her opening statement.
"While there were some differences in his approach and dealings with respect to the individual complainants, there were common themes. The evidence will show that each girl had their own particular vulnerabilities ... and he exploited these vulnerabilities for the purposes of profit."
Girls alleged given drugs
Moazami is facing 36 counts, including human trafficking, living on the avails of a juvenile, sexual assault and sexual interference.
Darby also outlined the testimony that the court is expected to hear over the next few months from the 11 victims, who cannot be named under a publication ban.
One teenager allegedly began working for Moazami when she was 16, said Darby. The court heard the girl became addicted to crack cocaine when she was 12, and sold the drug for her father. She did not have a permanent home, and would stay with her mother at times, or couch surf.
Through an acquaintance, who told her that he knew a way for her to make a lot of money, the girl allegedly met Moazami in January 2011 at a downtown Vancouver shopping mall food court, "where they discussed her becoming a prostitute," Darby said.
"She told him she was 16 at that first meeting, that she had no experience, she didn't know what to do," Darby told the court. "Within two weeks, he contacted her and told her that her place was ready."
Darby said the girl was allegedly taken to a downtown Vancouver condo, and was given a cell phone and "considerable quantities of drugs," including opium and marijuana. Moazami allegedly took photos of her and posted them on escort ads.
Even though the girl was "living in this great place," she felt lonely and isolated, and became very attached to a Chihuahua that Moazami brought over, Darby said.
Moazami, who Darby alleged became increasingly controlling, would use the dog to ensure the girl's compliance.
The girl never got any of the money that she earned because Moazami held onto the cash, even though they had agreed to split the money. When the two had a heated argument about the cash, Moazami assaulted the girl, court heard.
"In the course of that argument, she will testify he threw her in a bathtub, turned the shower on, held the shower rod down and was jabbing her with it, such that neighbours heard and called the police," Darby said.
Moazami arrested in October 2011
Justice Catherine Bruce, who is hearing the case without a jury, heard that other girls, all under the age of 18, were allegedly recruited by Moazami in similar fashion.
At times, Moazami allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted some of the young women, and he also allegedly attacked them when they disobeyed him, Darby said.
Some of the girls made tens of thousands of dollars for Moazami, but while some were given part of their earnings, and could come and go as they please, others did not receive a penny and were not allowed to go anywhere without Moazami's permission, Darby alleged.
Some of the young girls even travelled from Vancouver to Calgary with Moazami during the Calgary Stampede, where a lot of money from prostitution was expected to be made, said Darby.
Moazami was arrested in October 2011 in a South Vancouver home, where the prostitution ring is alleged to have operated, and where two young women were also found and taken into care.
He was released on bail, but was later charged with breach of a court order and obstruction of justice after allegedly having contact, through others, with one of the possible victims.