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Reza Moazami guilty of human trafficking

Girls as young as 14 pimped from North Vancouver hotels, court hears

A man who ran a teen prostitution ring across the Lower Mainland, including out of hotels in North Vancouver, was found guilty of human trafficking this week.

Reza Moazami, 29, is believed to be the first person in B.C. convicted of human trafficking.

Moazami was convicted Monday of 29 charges by Justice Catherine Bruce of the B.C. Supreme Court following a lengthy trial in which a number of his teenaged victims testified.

The girls were between 14 and 19 when they worked for Moazami as prostitutes at a series of condos and hotel rooms across the Lower Mainland.

Moazami was found guilty of procuring young teenagers into a life of prostitution, living off the avails of prostituting both adults and underage girls, using coercion, plus other charges of sexual assault, sexual interference of underage girls and sexual exploitation.

Moazami ran the prostitution ring between February 2009 and October 2011, when he was arrested and taken into custody.

As their pimp, Moazami used both psychological and physical threats to force the girls to work for him. He took their photos to post on websites advertising sexual services, took calls to arrange their clients, pocketed the money and gave the teens drugs to keep them dependent on him.

Moazami forced some of the girls to have sex with up to 10 men or more in a day.

At least three of the girls Moazami forced into prostitution were either from the North Shore or worked out of North Vancouver hotels.

One girl was 14 when she got a call to help a friend who was at a North Vancouver hotel. When she got there, however, Moazami met her and told her she would have to work for him as a prostitute. She did that for several months, seeing customers Moazami arranged either at the hotel or at homes in North Vancouver. The girl said Moazami took all the money she made, kept her high on drugs and didn't let her out of the hotel room except to meet clients.

She described working for him as "hell."

Another girl who had a troubled background in West Vancouver and was in foster care described how Moazami lured her into prostitution with promises of money and a glamorous lifestyle.

A North Vancouver RCMP officer who testified in the case described being called to a house on West Kings Road following a complaint that two young girls were being forced into prostitution there.

When police arrived they found two young girls dressed in provocative clothing and Moazami hiding in the pantry.

In convicting Moazami of the charges, Bruce said Monday, "I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Moazami lived off the avails of prostitution in a parasitic manner," adding it was clear from the girls' testimony that "he was their pimp."

It was also apparent that "Moazami created an atmosphere of fear among the girls who worked for him as prostitutes," said Bruce in her decision. Once a girl was part of his prostitute business, "he maintained strict control over her movements and her behaviour. He isolated her from friends outside of the prostitution business. He made her fear the police."

Following the verdict this week, Crown counsel Kristin Bryson said outside of court she was pleased with the decision.

"I feel like the system worked," she said.

Bryson said it was "incredibly hard" for the victims in the case to come forward and testify. "It was nothing short of courageous," she said, adding she hopes it will encourage other girls in similar situations to come forward.

Some of the convictions carry minimum sentences of five years in jail.

The sentencing for Moazami has been adjourned until December.