Two men who lured victims from Hungary to West Yorkshire and forced them into slavery have been jailed for their role in a large-scale human trafficking ring.
Janos Orsos (43) and Ferenc Illes (25) were today sentenced at Teesside Crown Court to 5 and 3 years in prison for masterminding a sophisticated scam in which their own countrymen were lured from across 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 within Dewsbury and left in fear of violence if they protested.
Orsos, who was living in Heckmondwike, pleaded guilty to 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.
Illes, who was living in Dewsbury, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic a person within the UK for exploitation.
Operation Tavernhouse, which resulted in the men’s conviction, began in July 2013 after one victim, who had left West Yorkshire, made contact with the anti-human trafficking charity Hope for Justice who in turn contacted West Yorkshire Police.
The 20-year-old revealed he had been the victim of offences committed in 2011, and began to pass information to officers through the charity to allow an investigation to begin.
More victims soon came forward, and others were identified, helping officers to build a case which identified the principal suspects. Both suspects were arrested in connection with the operation 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.
Allan Doherty, Director of Operations at Hope for Justice, said: “Hope for Justice is pleased with the convictions of Orsos and Illes. We worked in close partnership with West Yorkshire Police during this investigation and I thank them for their foresight and continued efforts to combat this type of crime, which devastates lives.
“This case highlights the issues of human trafficking and I know people hearing this sickening story today will be shocked that slavery is happening in their towns. But the fact of the matter is that human trafficking is a significant and unacceptable problem in Britain in the 21st century.
“Hope for Justice works with a range of frontline organisations such as the police, homeless shelters and outreach groups to train staff to spot the signs of human trafficking and identify victims to be rescued and perpetrators to be prosecuted. Our operations team, made up largely of former police officers, also assists in the rescue of victims and submits intelligence packages to the police.
“In some cases, victims of human trafficking are held captive by physical means but in many cases they are controlled by mental and emotional tactics. Traffickers can be so manipulative that victims become prisoners in their own heads, not daring to leave or run away for fear of what might happen to themselves or their families. We hope that today’s convictions will help other victims to overcome that fear and come forward.”
Phillipa Roberts, Hope for Justice Legal Director, said: “Convictions like this are hard-won but absolutely critical. Without justice in the courtroom we will be hard-pressed to end modern slavery in the UK.”
Detective Sergeant Paul Simms 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. 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.”