A GANG that trafficked dozens of Hungarian women into the country to work as prostitutes has been jailed for a total of 23 years following a Home Office investigation.
Hove Crown Court heard how British national Victoria Brown, and Hungarians Mate Puskas, Zoltan Mohacsi and brothers Peter and Istvan Toth trafficked more than 60 women into the country via ports and airports in the south east, including Luton and Gatwick.
The gang were convicted on Tuesday following a ten-week trial, and sentenced at the same court on Wednesday.
The women, who were mainly from Budapest and south east Hungary, were aware they were coming to the UK to work as prostitutes but misled about their working conditions. Clients were charged significant amounts but the women were badly paid and overworked.
The women were put to work at hotels and rented accommodation across the country, moving regularly between locations including a stop off at Swindon’s Holiday Inn Express in the town centre – yards from a police station.
The sentencing comes after Wiltshire Police launched a new Human Exploitation and Emerging Threats unit to tackle the issue and officers form the town centre policing team trained hotel staff to spot the signs of trafficking.
The conspiracy stretched as far north as Liverpool, south as Eastbourne, east as Norwich and west as Bristol.
Mate Puskas, 26 and Zoltan Mohacsi, 36, and Victoria Brown, 25, all of Surrey Street, Croydon, were found guilty of control of prostitution for gain and trafficking persons into the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation and were jailed for six, four and three years respectively.
Peter Toth, 28, and Istvan Toth, 35, of Fiador Court, Midway Quay, Eastbourne, were found guilty of the same charges and sentenced in their absence to four and five years respectively. They are still on the run.
Suspicions were first raised when Sussex Police referred separate incidents of prostitution to the Home Office, which were linked by Hungarian women who had travelled to the UK.
All the defendants were complicit in the offence of trafficking. They provided transport, accompanied or chaperoned women into the UK, or financed the conspiracy by paying for flights, hotels and advertising. All the women were subjected to physical, mental or financial control by the gang.
The gang was caught following simultaneous raids by the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team in October 2012. Officers found defendants operated a ‘switchboard’ which arranged rendezvous directly with clients via an adult services website.
Among the locations raided was an internet café in Croydon, run by Brown and Puskas. They were found with various mobile phones containing texts about meetings that had been arranged between prostitutes and clients. The majority of the trafficked women have returned to Hungary.
All the foreign national members of the gang will be subject to automatic deportation orders at the end of their sentences.
The Home Office’s Immi-gration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team consists of specialist trained immigration officers and seconded police who investigate organised immigration crime.
Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.