Chanel Steben’s mother Marie-Claude Paquette wiped away tears from her home in Quebec as she told a Newmarket, Ont., court via Zoom what a difficult time she had writing a victim impact statement about the death of her 23-year-old daughter.
It was April 18, 2017, when Steben got a call from a doctor in Toronto saying that her daughter was fighting for her life and he was doing everything he could to keep her alive. Steben later died.
Through a French translator, Paquette said Chanel’s death has left her with rage, anguish, hatred and anger. She said her daughter didn’t know to mistrust bad individuals.
She spoke about the fact she knew her daughter was making changes to her body but “today, I understand better that those changes were for her, an armour to protect the little girl in side of her. To protect her heart,” said Paquette who remembered her daughter as a child who loved competitive sports including swimming, tennis and skiing.
Paquette was one of four people to give victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing of 44-year-old Anna Yakubovsky-Rositsan, a registered nurse who pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death, failing to provide the necessities of life, seven counts of aggravated assault and seven counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, after injecting victims with what they thought was a filler called PMMA over a two-year period between 2016 and 2017.
According to an agreed statement of facts made an exhibit when Yakubovsky-Rositsan pleaded guilty to the charges on August 31, 2021, “Yakubovsky-Rositsan was neither authorized nor permitted to give cosmetic injections of any kind. However she injected silicone and mineral oil into the buttocks, and in some cases faces of eight victims, causing bodily harm to seven of them and death to the eighth”.
At the time of the offences, Yakubovsky-Rositsan was not working in an office, though in her 2016 and 2017 annual membership renewal that she filed with the College of Nurses, she reported that she was working at a foot clinic in Thornhill, but the information she provided was false.
She was not employed anywhere as a nurse during that period. Instead, she ran a business out of her home in Thornhill and later in Vaughan, doing cosmetic injection: lip, face and buttocks injections.
All of the victims in this case had procedures done at Yakubovsky-Rositsan’s home. She worked alone, without any supervision and beyond her scope of practice as a nurse.
She was not able to lawfully purchase “fillers” like Juvaderm or Botox to inject into clients. Instead, she bought injectable products on the black market.
The agreed statement of facts reads, “For women in Canada who want to enlarge their buttocks or change the shape of it, there is only one injection procedure that plastic surgeons will do, known as a Brazilian butt lift, which is a surgical buttock augmentation procedure that uses unwanted fat from other parts of the body to life and add volume to the buttocks. No foreign material is added to the body.”
In this case, Ms Yakubovsky-Rositsan gave cosmetic injections of foreign substances, including buttocks injections, to the seven victims.
Yakubovksy-Rositsan told all the victims she was injecting their buttocks with PMMA, but that was not true. She injected other foreign material, that included silicone and for one victim, mineral oil, into their buttocks.” PMMA is illegal for use in Canada.
Court heard that Chanel Steben had been going to Yakubovsky-Rositsan for cosmetic injections, including butt injections, for a least a year prior to her death.
Like other women in this case, Steben experienced discoloration of her buttocks and lumps and the movement of the material injection into her body, but on April 18, 2017, things went terribly wrong.
After texting the nurse and requesting two bottles of the filler, she arrived with her boyfriend around 1:30 a.m. Steben laid down on her stomach and began the procedure.
At about 4:00 a.m., after getting some injections, Steben said she was not feeling well and wanted to throw up. As soon as she stood up, she suffered a seizure. Her boyfriend put her on the floor. She was unconscious, shaking, and was bleeding from her buttocks, where she had been injected. No one called 911.
Finally Yakubovsky-Rositsan called her husband who was separated from her, but living nearby. She asked him for help.
He came to the house, saw Steben on the floor and told her boyfriend to call 911. Just before 6:00, the boyfriend called an ambulance. More than an hour had passed since she had collapsed on the floor.
Steben arrived at hospital at 6:30 am. She never regained consciousness and died at hospital. The immediate cause of death was lack of oxygen to her brain.
The more fulsome cause of death was “acute global hypoxic-ischemic injury to the brain due to systemic mineral oil emboli complicating buttock injection”.
After Steben was taken to the hospital via ambulance and before police executed a search warrant at Yakubovsky-Rositsan’s house, she and her husband tried to get rid of evidence that showed she had been doing cosmetic injections at her home.
Two garbage bags full of medical evidence were taken to a dumpster at a nearby plaza, and one of their cars was filled with supplies but police seized the cars before the supplies were removed from the scene. The police also found medical supplies in garbage bags in the garage.
Assistant Crown attorney Michael Ventola told Madam Justice Michelle Fuerst that Yakubovksy-Rositsan’s actions have caused devastation to a number of people’s lives.
“And for what? So that she could make more money,” Ventola explained.
Ventola said the Crown and defence are jointly submitting that a six-year prison sentence would be appropriate, in order to send a message to anyone that would consider engaging in this type of conduct to risk the lives of innocent people for their own profit.
Ventola also asked for a non-communication order with the victims, the family of Chanel Stebens, a DNA sample and a lifetime weapons prohibition.
“She used her position and qualifications as a nurse to facilitate the offences. As a nurse, Ms Yakobovsky-Rositsan knew full well she was putting the lives of these people who trusted her in jeopardy,” Ventola said.
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Other aggravating factors include the fact she lied to the victims about the substances she was injecting and at times she herself didn’t know what she was injecting, Ventola referring to a text message Yakobovsky-Rositsan had sent a friend in which she wrote “2500$ is a going price for pmma bottle and I don’t think it’s pmma. Probably silicon (sic). Too hard and heavy.”
Ventola also pointed out that the offences were committed over a lengthy period of time beginning in 2016 and continuing through 2017. “This wasn’t a split second decision”. He also found it aggravating that Yakobovsky-Rositsan did not call police or an ambulance but her ex-husband. “There were hours of medical distress. It was her husband who said somebody needs to call police.”
Ventola reminded the judge that the nurse also took actions to conceal her criminal behavior. “As Ms Steben was fighting for her life in hospital, Ms. Yakobovsky-Rositsan was dismantling her medical room, removing the evidence.”
“Considering those circumstances, it is jointly agreed that a strong message needs to be sent. A lengthy period of incarceration is required.”
Two survivors gave victim impact statements including Tiffany Cummings, a woman in her 40s who received cheek and butt injections from Yakubovsky-Rositsan.
Cummings, whose face was disfigured after having her face injected more than 10 times, told the court she finally found a plastic surgeon in the New York who would performed surgery.
At the time of the preliminary inquiry, she had spent $66,000 on two surgeries and other treatments to remove injected product, being silicone, from her face. She has also developed complications in her buttocks. “Still today her butt is lumpy, bumpy, discolored and uncomfortable,” according to the agreed statement of facts.
Cummings told the court, “I made the dreadful mistake of trusting a registered nurse with medical training. I went from being a pretty girl to a monster. I pray for Chanel’s family. All these things should never have happened. There is no forgiveness. If I wasn’t so disgusted by this person, I would actually feel sorry for her.”
Yakobovsky-Rositsan, who has only spent 21 days in custody since her arrest on June 4, 2018, gave a tearful apology to her victims before leaving court.
She was initially released on bail with conditions that she remain in her residence unless in the company of her surety. But since then, they have been varied three times. She no longer has a house arrest condition and is now allowed to reside anywhere in Ontario, has no curfew and is permitted to travel anywhere in Canada for up to two weeks at a time.
She will be sentenced later this week.
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