Crime family jailed for making modern slaves of trafficked construction workers
Members of a family that lured people to the UK then kept them as modern slaves working in construction in London have been given prison sentences at Southwark Crown Court.
The family, from the London borough of Newham, was convicted in December. It has now been sentenced.
Vasile Dragoi Snr, 61 when he was convicted and said to be the head of the family, was given a six-year custodial sentence for his role in a scheme that trapped workers after they were lured to the UK on the false promise of earning £50 a day from construction work.
Two other family members, Florrinel Dragoi and Marian Podianu, received sentences of five years and three months. Ion Brogan Dragoi got five year’s and seven months. A fifth member of the gang, Alexandra Ciocodan, was given a two-year sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
In December, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the five members of what it described as an organised crime family had lured victims to the UK with false promises of well-paid construction work before trapping them in modern slavery conditions with no pay.
The five were found guilty of human trafficking offences at Southwark Crown Court after a 16-week trial.
The prosecutions involved 16 victims. They were told they would be paid £50 a day to work in the construction industry and would have free food and accommodation. But when they arrived in the UK, their identification documents were seized and payments were withheld.
The Dragoi family made the travel arrangements for the victims to come to the UK from Romania. When they arrived they were placed in four houses in east London. In order to hide the number of people living in the properties during local council inspections, their bunk beds were hidden in the loft.
Living in cramped accommodation of up to 26 people in a terraced house, the victims were told they had to pay off debts they did not know they had incurred and their wages were withheld.
Paul Goddard, from the CPS, said the Vasile Dragoi family “used their position to prey on and exploit many economically vulnerable workers who could not stand up to them”.
He said: “They benefited from their victims’ hard work in the construction industry, promising good rates of pay to entice them to the UK before reneging on those promises and keeping most of the wages for themselves.
“The modern slavery exploitation of adults is abhorrent and the CPS will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”
The CPS said Vasile Dragoi Snr controlled the family and was described as ‘the big boss’. His sons were the controlling forces in the houses and found employment and enforced the invented debts. If the workers complained, they were threatened.
During the trial, the prosecution used evidence including statements from the victims, close co-operation with Romanian police, and analysis of finances, tax records, company transactions and flight details, to prove the case against the defendants.
All five defendants were convicted of:
- conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation between 1 January 2017 and 20 October 2017
- conspiracy to convert criminal property between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017.
- Of the modern slavery cases referred to the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) by police in 2020/21 where the CPS made a decision, it prosecuted 81% (335 cases) and achieved a conviction in 73.9% of those cases.