Human traffickers who exploited Romanian women as sex workers across Lancashire are caged
Three men from Preston who conspired to traffick and sexually exploit women have been jailed.
Razvan Florinel Mitru, Traian Gavrila and Marius Dide were among several people arrested in dawn raids across Lancashire, Gateshead and Evesham as part of Operation Ludlow - a nine-month probe into an organised crime group.
Romanian women were driven to clients at private addresses and hotels in Blackpool, Lytham and East Lancashire amongst other places, after adverts were placed on website Vivastreet, Preston Crown Court heard.
Ringleader Mitru, 30, of Arkwright Road, Deepdale, Preston, has convictions for corruption in Romania, and had at least Â£77,000 going through his bank account during the conspiracy.He was jailed for five years, four months.
Gavrila, 31, of Victoria Place, Walton-le-Dale, near Preston, was jailed for three years, nine months.
Driver Dide, 27, of Arkwright Road, Preston, received two years
Judge Robert Altham said the women were plainly vulnerable to exploitation.
He added: " The case concerned a highly organised, well capitalised and sophisticated criminal enterprise.
"There are two separate aspects to the exploitation implicit in trafficking. Firstly victims are persuaded to leave their homes, then once here their work as prostitutes is controlled. Indeed in this case they were plainly guided into prostitution."
He described how one women had arrived in Liverpool, her travel paid by Mitru, without knowing what he did.
He added: "It is clear that in certain circumstances the women knew they would work as prostitutes. In her case she plainly did not.
"The women's services were advertised on Vivastreet, a general classified ad website which has an escort classification. The services were blatantly prostitution.
"Noone, including those who make a profit from Vivastreet, could have been left in any doubt prostitution services were being offered."
All the defendants were served with deportation notices after admitting conspiring to arrange travel for the purpose of exploitation.
Alexander Peter Baltoiu, 24, of St Margaret's Road, Evesham, Worcestershire, will serve two years, six months.
Alexandru Pitigoi, 25, also of Evesham, Worcestershire, was given one year, 10 months.
Ionut Cosmin Dogaru, 28, of Pine Street, Blackburn, got three years, four months.
Marius Ciprian Trasca, 29, of Watt Street, Gateshead, received two years, nine months.
Marian Diaconu, 25, of Arborfield Close, Slough, was jailed for two years, two months.
Catalin Iordache, 28, of Theodor D. Sperantia Street, Constanta, Romania, got one year, five months.
The court heard the men controlled the women's entry into the country, their accommodation, their arrangements in advertising, the financial side of the work and significantly, their transport to and from customers.
The victims were driven to "out calls" at hotels or private addresses by appointed drivers. The criminals charged Â£120 an hour for the women and kept half.
DS Stuart Peall, of Lancashire Police, said: " This investigation shows we are determined to root out criminal gangs who exploit vulnerable people in our county.
" A team of seven officers worked tirelessly to bring these offenders to justice. We managed to save 11 vulnerable women from an uncertain future.
" They are targeting girls in the most deprived areas of Romania. They often have young children. Once they are here they are under untold pressure from family back home to provide for them, and once they find prostitution they can't get out of it.
"The youngest was 21. They are tied to these men while they are here.
"After the investigation we recovered hundreds of client's numbers.
"The demand in Lancashire, sadly, is massive and we've found one of the reasons these gangs use accommodation in Lancashire is because it is very cheap.
"We would encourage landlords to be aware that human trafficking is happening here and to report any concerns to us.
"Many of the out calls were to hotels in Blackpool, Lytham and Burnley. We have found hotels in Lancashire are proactive in reporting concerns to us."
A spokesman for website Vivastreet - where the victims were 'advertised' to prospective clients, today said: "Vivastreet constantly reviews its services to ensure that it complies with relevant laws.
"Where users seek to misuse its service, in breach of its terms and conditions for illegal means, Vivastreet fully cooperates with the local law enforcement authorities to ensure they have as much information as possible to assist with their enquiries.”
Joanna Ingle, Senior Crown Prosecutor in CPS North West Complex Casework Unit said: “These men exploited vulnerable victims for their own financial gain controlling all aspects of their earnings and their lives. “These women were vulnerable, far from their homes and families and without any real support network in this country. In most cases they were poor and desperate to support their families back in Romania.“Florinel Mitru masterminded the operation and intended making as much money as possible by exploiting them. The CPS presented evidence to the court that showed he had large amounts of cash in bank accounts and access to expensive vehicles but no legitimate income.”“Modern slavery is a complex crime which the CPS is committed to combatting. Alongside police and other partners in the criminal justice system we are working to identify, investigate and prosecute offending, and support victims.”