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Reza Moazami is shown the prisoner's box in a Vancouver court, Sept. 25, 2013 in this court drawing. Moazami was found guilty a year ago of luring teenage girls into prostitution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Felicity Don

The Canadian Press

A British Columbia man convicted of trafficking underage girls for sex should be locked up for more than 20 years, say Crown prosecutors, though a defence lawyer is calling such a sentence "crushing."

David Milburn told B.C. Supreme Court that a sentence between 10 and 12 years would be more appropriate for his client, Reza Moazami.

Moazami, who is in his 30s, was found guilty last year of luring nearly a dozen teenage girls into prostitution, in the province's first human-trafficking conviction.

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"There can be no doubt that he's deserving of a substantial penitentiary sentence, but not along the lines of what the Crown is looking for," Milburn told court Monday about the proposed 20-year sentence.

"In my submission, that is unduly harsh — it's excessive, it's crushing."

Milburn listed several mitigating factors, including Moazami's relatively young age, his limited criminal record, his history of being abused as a child and the impact steroids had on his temper.

The court heard Moazami worked partially as a personal trainer around the time of his offences and would take steroids in order to attract more customers.

"They were changing his body as well but they were changing his emotional response in certain situations," Milburn told the court.

"There's a lot of literature out there that confirms that people who use steroids can have fits of rage."

Justice Catherine Bruce interrupted Milburn at one point to raise concern over the cyclical nature of Moazami's offences, saying she believed it would be "better for him" had they all occurred at the same time.

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"It wasn't that he did this all at once and he was arrested and that was it," she said. "This was a situation where he was doing it, then he was arrested, released and he started doing it again."

Bruce also challenged the math behind Milburn's proposed 10- to 12-year sentence, noting that adding the minimum sentences together resulted in an overall sentence in excess of 40 years.

"That is troublesome to me," she said.

"It isn't one complainant where you have multiple counts. It's 11 complainants. Crime isn't cheaper by the dozen."

Moazami has already spent a little more than three and a half years behind bars. That time will go toward reducing his overall sentence, though Crown and defence lawyers dispute how much credit he should receive.

Milburn agreed to a number of separate orders requested by the Crown, including registering his client on the sex-offender registry and paying a victim surcharge of $2,600.

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Other orders included weapons prohibition for at least 10 years and a non-communication order with the 11 victims and a number of vulnerable witnesses.

Moazami was to be sentenced last December, but the proceedings were set back several times after he fired his lawyers.

Court heard during his trial that Moazami recruited at-risk girls by promising them alcohol, drugs and, in one instance, a puppy, which he then threatened to harm.

Moazami testified that he wasn't aware his victims were underage and insisted he hadn't been living off the money they earned having sex with an average of 12 men a day.

Bruce is expected to issue a decision on the sentence on Nov. 9.

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