Three members of an organised crime gang who trafficked women into the UK for sexual exploitation have been sentenced for a combined total of 24 years.
• Eleonora Vasileva, 34 (12.03.86), of Alnwick Road, E16, sentenced to 11 years.
• Iliya Mihaylov, 31 (25.01.88), of Alnwick Road, E16, sentenced to 10 years.
• Marian Ninov Vasilev, 34 (23.01.85), of The Broadway, Woodford, IG8, sentenced to three years.
The three, who are all Bulgarian nationals, were found guilty of conspiracy to traffic, conspiracy to control prostitution, and conspiracy to supply class A drugs at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday, 7 October 2019.
Mihaylov was further found guilty of theft, making threats to kill, and possession of a prohibited weapon (disguised stun gun).
Both Eleonora Vasileva and Iliya Mihaylov were also served with a 15-year Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order by the Judge,
All three were sentenced at the same court on Thursday, 17 October.
The court heard that at least six victims were trafficked into the UK from Bulgaria, whereupon their suffering would begin almost immediately.
They would be greeted at the airport, a ‘service’ for which they would have to pay £200, before being transported to one of a number of rented locations. The group operated brothels from The Broadway, Woodford, West Ham Lane, Stratford, and an address in Leyton.
The victims would rarely be allowed to leave the squalid apartments. They would be expected to work 24 hours a day, accepting any ‘clients’ immediately and unconditionally, to whom they would also be forced to sell class A drugs. The victims’ advertising, accommodation and work was all controlled by the gang.
After paying 50% of their takings to the group, the victims would then be forced to pay a weekly room charge and buy items including lubricants and condoms directly from the gang, where the price was inflated to up to five times the registered amount. This was all from their 50% share, as well as being fined for such offences as refusing clients or not being suitably dressed.
If any of the victims told the gang that they wanted to stop or go home, they would be threatened with violence and told that their families would be in danger, with whom they would have restricted access.
The gang members themselves would visit the victims two to three times a week to collect money and lived a life of total contrast, enjoying buying luxury cars, including a Porsche Cayenne, and having access to large quantities of cash, despite HMRC records displaying a very limited income.
An investigation began in February 2018 by officers from the Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit, after Bulgarian authorities alerted the Met to reports of an organised crime network exploiting people in London. This included the creation of a Joint Investigation with Bulgarian Police, assisted by EuroPol in The Hague.
Mihaylov was arrested on 5 March 2019 after police observed him leaving his home address on Alnwick Road. Vasileva was also located inside the home address. Vasilev was located and arrested the same day at the brothel address in Woodford. All were taken into custody and denied any involvement.
During searches of the addresses officers discovered, amongst other evidence, cash, class A drugs and a disguised stun gun.
Detective Constable Tom Jackson, Central Specialist Crime, said: “The actions of the group were abhorrent; the victims, vulnerable and frightened, were at times put in fear of their lives by a callous gang who showed a total disregard for their wellbeing.
“I am pleased we have secured these sentences today, and would like to thank the victims who have been so courageous in supporting this investigation. I would encourage anyone else who believes they may be a victim of the crime to come forward and report to us.
“The Met will continue to work with partners both home and abroad to combat human trafficking and modern slavery in order to safeguard those who are most vulnerable. We will continue to target organised crime groups who seek to profit from these audacious acts and bring them to justice.”
Modern slavery could be happening in your community so it’s important you know the signs that could indicate someone is a victim of this crime.
The signs aren’t always obvious but there are some that you may notice:
• Do they look scruffy, malnourished or injured?
• Are they acting anxious, afraid or unable to make eye contact?
• Are they doing long hours, wearing unsuitable clothing or have the wrong equipment for the job?
• Is where they are living overcrowded, poorly maintained or are the curtains always closed?
• Do they behave like they’re being instructed by someone else, picked up/dropped off at the same time and place every day or don’t have access to money or identification?