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Romanian gang trafficked ‘sex-slaves’ into Lancashire

L-R: (top) Marius Dide, Marius Trasca, Marian Diaconu, (middle) Ionut Dogaru, Florinel Mitru, Catalin Iordache, (bottom) Alexandru Pitigoi, Alexandru Baltoiu and Traian Gavrila.

[N]INE men have today been sentenced for their roles in trafficking and exploiting Romanian women for prostitution.

The investigation began in June 2016 when an address on St Barnabas Street, Blackburn, was visited by the police in connection with reports that the premises were being used as a brothel.

Following the police interest the gang, run by Florinel Razvan Mitru, started to advertise on websites for “out calls” where the females go to the clients at hotels or other addresses.

Over the course of the operation the police amassed a large body of material implicating the defendants in the running and trafficking of prostitutes.

The men were arrested in a series of raids across the country in April.

A number of women have been safeguarded as part of the investigation.

The men had all pleaded guilty and were jailed at Preston Crown Court for a total of more than 25 years.

Det Sgt Stu Peall, of the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Team, said: “Today’s sentences are the culmination of a long running investigation into a Romanian organised crime group which came to our attention through a number of suspected brothels and it shows that even where there is no victim complaint we can successfully prosecute the men engaged in this evil trade.

“The fact that these men admitted the offences is a testament to the strength of the evidence against them and I’d like to thank all the officers and staff who worked so hard to get to this point as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecuting barrister, Katherine Pierpoint, for presenting the case.

“Lancashire Constabulary remains committed to investigating human trafficking and modern slavery and taking robust action against those willing to exploit others for financial gain.

“Modern slavery is a difficult crime to detect and we would urge the public to report any concerns within their communities.”

Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “This successful prosecution is an excellent example of the hard work and dedication by Lancashire officers in targeting those responsible for human trafficking. It shows how important it is to remain focused on targeting criminal gangs like this who were exploiting vulnerable people in our communities.

“I have funded two additional roles within Lancashire Constabulary to support this work and I’m proud that the resources I have put into this fight places us at the forefront of anti-trafficking work in the country.

“Those sentenced were part of the criminal infrastructure that existed to get these young girls into the country. Removing this dangerous gang from our streets sends a clear message to anyone involved in human trafficking that our officers have the resources, skills and determination to bring them to justice and make Lancashire a safer place.”

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.”

 

The Insurance Fraud Bureau assisted the investigation by identifying false insurance details which had been obtained for some of the vehicles used by the gang.

Ben Fletcher, IFB Director, said: “This goes to show that insurance fraud is often linked to wider criminality, and in this case, was being used to facilitate human trafficking. We are pleased that IFB were able to play a role in strengthening the case against Mitru. This is an extremely sinister case and we hope the sentencing goes some way in providing justice for the innocent victims involved.”

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.”

Offender details

Florinel Mitru, 31, of Arkwright Road, Preston – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. He was sentenced to five years and four months in prison.

Marius Trasca, 30, of St Barnabas Street, Blackburn – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. Sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.

Traian Gavrila, 31, of Victoria Place, Preston – Pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. Sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.

Ionut Cosmin Dogaru, 29, of Whitebirk Drive, Blackburn – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. Sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

Alexandru Peter Baltoiu, 25, of St Margarets Road, Evesham, Worcestershire – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. Sentenced to two years and six months in prison.

Alexandru Pitigoi, 25, of Waterside, Evesham, Worcestershire – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. He was sentenced to one year and 10 months in prison.

Marius Dide, 27, of Arkwright Road, Preston – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Marian Diaconu, 26, of Hope Street, Blackburn – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. Sentenced to two years and two months in prison.

Catalin Georgian Iordache, 28 of Pine Street, Blackburn – pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic for purpose of sexual exploitation. Sentenced to one year and five months in prison.

Mitru, Trasca, Gavrila and Dogaru were handed slavery and trafficking orders. All the men will be deported when their sentences finish.

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