Two Hungarians who lured their fellow countrymen to West Yorkshire have been jailed for their role in a large scale human trafficking ring which forced their victims into near slavery.
Janos Orsos, 43, and Ferenc Illes, 25, were sentenced to five years and three years in prison at Teesside Crown Court for masterminding a sophisticated scam in which men were lured from Hungary to work 60 hours a week for as little as £20 a week.
Their victims were forced to live in severely cramped, multi-occupancy rooms in Dewsbury and left in fear of violence if they protested.
Illes, who was living in Dewsbury, was convicted of conspiracy to traffic a person within the UK for exploitation.
Orsos, who was living in Heckmondwike, was convicted of conspiracy to traffic a person into the UK for exploitation, conspiracy to traffic a person within the UK for exploitation, blackmail and converting criminal property, contrary to Section 327 of the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Operation Tavernhouse which resulted in the conviction of the men, began in July 2013 after one victim who had left West Yorkshire made contact with the charity Hope For Justice, who in turn contacted West Yorkshire Police.
The 20-year-old revealed he had been the victim of offences in 2011, and passed information to officers through the charity to allow an investigation to begin.
More victims soon came forwards and others were identified, helping officers to build a case which identified the principle suspects.
Both were arrested towards the end of 2013.
As the case progressed, offences from as far back as 2011 were disclosed to officers who worked with the support of Hope for Justice, to build a case.
Among those exploited was a 45-year-old woman who, after coming to the UK in summer 2013, became a house skivvy in Dewsbury where she was kept prisoner and forced to do housework for free. She was not given clothes and was only fed once a day during her captivity. She was later given more freedom and was able to flee and catch a train away from the town.
Also among the victims was a Hungarian man who, on arriving in Dewsbury, was put up at a flat in Ravensthorpe which was housing 11 people. Once there he was allocated a bunk bed without a sheet and found that all of them had been given just £2 a week between them to live on.
In total, he worked more than 21 weeks for just £30 and lost more than 10 kilos in weight.
Speaking after the case, Detective Sergeant Paul Simm of Kirklees CID, said: “We are pleased to see the conviction of Orsos and Illes today for offences which, quite simply, should not be taking place in 21st Century Britain.
“I am quite sure the notion that men and women were working in conditions of virtual slavery in their communities will horrify residents in Dewsbury and Heckmondwike.
“In these cases we have been presented with evidence of men and woman working long hours across various businesses and not being paid what they are owed.
“All the while they have were forced to live in cramped, squalid shared accommodation with a number of others.”
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey of Kirklees CID, added: “These convictions have followed a long running, detailed and at times, difficult investigation and I want to thank partners including Hope For Justice, who have worked with us to bring this case to a conclusion.
“I would encourage anyone who feels they may be a victim of this type of trafficking and is being exploited to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
“We have an ongoing commitment in Kirklees to identify and safeguard vulnerable victims of crime in the community. By tackling this relatively recent challenge in partnership with Hope for Justice, we are directly contributing to keeping our communities safe and feeling safer as well as dismantling the infrastructure of organised crime groups.”
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson also welcomed the convictions, but said more needed to be done to tackle the issue of human trafficking.
He said: “This very sad case demonstrates yet again that human trafficking is an issue which exists within West Yorkshire and that fact cannot be ignored.
“That we have vulnerable individuals being exploited and forced into modern day slavery in the 21st century beggars belief and horrifies me, as it will any decent, law abiding member of society.
“I will call on my fellow Police and Crime Commissioners to establish a working group to tackle human trafficking head on by raising awareness to ensure people can understand the signs and bring this hidden crime out into the open.
“I am also going to meet with colleagues at the National Crime Agency to establish how we can work together better to identify and support victims.
“I will be raising it with the Chief Constable to ensure human trafficking is policed with the appropriate resources including district hubs, Proceeds of Crime investment and how the police engage with partners on this issue and I want to thank West Yorkshire Police for bringing this difficult case to conclusion, working with partners including Hope For Justice.
“I said that an operation last November when a total of 17 men, women and children were rescued from exploitation at 25 properties across Leeds, may have only be the tip of the iceberg.
“This case shows that it is happening across the county but by working together with partners, we can better support victims and target the perpetrators of this horrendous crime and practice.
“Safeguarding vulnerable victims is one of the key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and I have made a personal commitment to helping those affected and look forward to working with the Anti-Slavery Commissioner once in place to raise awareness of this issue.”