TORONTO – For two years, Vanessa Cachia has been unfairly labelled a pimp and a human trafficker.
Just 23, her mug shot is all over the Internet. She has been the subject of two arrests and two press releases put out by the Drugs and Vice unit of York Regional Police. CTV's W5 was invited to film her takedown as part of the YRP's efforts to showcase their heroic efforts against the sex trade. Never in trouble with the law before, she spent 10 days in jail, five of them in solitary, when the police and the Crown opposed her bail.
She was made to look like some heinous criminal. But Cachia is innocent. In fact, her only crime may be that she fell in love with the wrong guy.
It was so obvious that she hadn't forced anyone into the sex trade that all human trafficking charges against her were withdrawn by the Crown immediately after the testimony portion of the preliminary hearing this summer. And two weeks ago, Justice Anne-Marie Hourigan withdrew the remaining counts, saying there was simply no evidence to go to trial.
"This was supposed to be their first big bust and it was all smoke and mirrors," says Cachia's lawyer, Leora Shemesh. "They really did ruin this girl's name. It's really sad. She's a really good kid."
Cachia was 19 and heading to college when she met handsome Stefan "Romeo" Ascenzi while working at the mall. While her parents desperately worried about her, he became her boyfriend, she secretly began dancing at strip clubs and moved in with him and his mom. "Dancing's not illegal," she insists over coffee. "I was making money, I was enjoying being independent. I was dancing because I wanted to."
The three alleged victims had all lived at some point in the same Vaughan home, north of Toronto, and had also been exotic dancers. But she naively believed her boyfriend was sleeping with her and only her.