Human traffickers who shipped prostitutes for customers across the Wigan area have been jailed for nearly 25 years.
An organised crime gang from Romania offered the services of Eastern European women for “call-outs” at a number of addresses across the borough, as well as Preston and East Lancashire.
Pimps even issued their girls with their own SIM cards so they could stay on the move for their clients, Preston Crown Court was told.
But after tracking the collective over a number of months by detectives in Lancashire, nine men have now received jail sentences ranging from 17 to 64 months for conspiring to traffick the women for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Police say that a number of the victims are now receiving counselling and other professional support to help them overcome their ordeals.
Detectives were first made aware of the gang after raiding a brothel in Blackburn in June 2016, where they found ringleader Florinel Mitru, 31, running two prostitutes with an accomplice.
Once caught out though, according to police, the gang moved its operation online and started receiving bookings from domestic and hotel “bookings” from towns including Wigan, Preston, Burnley and Clitheroe.
Detectives tracked the movements of gang members using automatic number plate recognition cameras and kept observations on flight record to further monitor their travel plans and see how would-be victims were being introduced into their illicit venture. All nine were detained following a series of raids last April.
Mitru, of Arkwright Road, Preston, was jailed for 64 months and eight others, from his lieutenants to foot-soldiers in the operation, were also imprisoned. All will be deported at the end of their sentences.
Mitru had also arranged for one-month fraudulent insurance policies for cars connected to the gang so they would not be pulled over by police.
Anti-slavery orders, sought by police to distance the nine from any future trafficking plans, were also granted for Mitru and three others.
Speaking after the case Det Sgt Stu Peall, said: “These 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.”
Two extra posts, to tackle human trafficking, have been created by Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw.
Meanwhile work to combat the issue by Greater Manchester Police was praised by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary after they invested in training for nearly 50 tactical advisers for suspected slavery cases.