Lancashire gang who ran network of brothels jailed after neighbours spot 'conveyor belt' of men

Five men and one woman have been jailed for running a brothel which "exploited young Romanian women to work as prostitutes" in Blackburn.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 7:05 pm

The gang’s business model was to advertise the sexual services of young women on the internet and to move them from town to town, police said.

The scheme was uncovered after people living on a street in Blackburn raised concerns of a "conveyor belt" of men turning up to the address in the early hours of the morning or late at night.

An investigation revealed the address at St Stephen's Road was just one address in a network of brothels being operated in Blackburn, Burnley and Preston, and further afield in Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham and London.

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All six defendants pleaded guilty to the commercial exploitation of women in a case that was brought despite not being supported by the victims.

They were sentenced at Preston Crown Court between Monday, November 23 and Wednesday, November 25.

Det Sgt Stu Peall, of Lancashire Constabulary's Exploitation Team which led the investigation, said: "This gang used these women as nothing more than a commodity without any regard for their well-being or human rights. The evidence compiled by the police clearly showed they were controlling women for the purposes of prostitution.

"Lancashire Constabulary is committed to tackling exploitation of all kinds and today’s sentences are the culmination of the hard work and dedication of our officers who continue to work proactively to put an end to modern slavery.”

The gang: Mihaela-Diana Barbieru, Valentin Caraman, Valentina Cretu, Valentin Ghelase, Marius Serban and Razvan Zidaru. (Credit: Lancashire Police)

"I would like to thank the community for the help they provided in this case which assisted us in bringing a successful prosecution. We welcome any community intelligence that may help to identify addresses where prostitution may be taking place If you suspect suspicious activity is taking place, please let us know. We take all reports seriously and will investigate thoroughly."

Those jailed are:

- Razvan Zidaru, 30, Douglas Place, Blackburn. 24 months

- Valentina Cretu, 31, Douglas Place, Blackburn. 24 months

- Valentin Ghelase, 35, Fielden Street, Blackburn. 21 months

- Marius Serban, 39, Castleton Road, Preston. 21 months

- Valentin Caraman, 38, Oakenhurst Road, Blackburn. 21 months

- Mihaela-Diana Barbieru, 32, Fielden Street, Blackburn. 19 months

Police say there are a number of ways for people who think they may be victims of human trafficking or slavery to get help.

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