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Crime family lured victims to UK for construction work in east London before trapping them in 'modern slavery'

|News

Five members of an organised crime family have been convicted for luring victims to the UK with false promises of well-paid construction work before trapping them in “modern slavery” conditions with no pay.

Custody photos of Vasile Dragoi, Marian Podianu, Florinel Bobi Dragoi, Ion Bogdan Dragoi, Alexandra Ciocodan
L-R: Vasile Dragoi, Marian Podianu, Florinel Bobi Dragoi, Ion Bogdan Dragoi, Alexandra Ciocodan

Vasile Dragoi Snr, 61, and others were found guilty of human trafficking offences yesterday at Southwark Crown Court after a sixteen-week trial.

Their 16 victims were promised £50 a day to work in the construction industry with free food and accommodation. Identification documents were seized from the workers and withheld to exert further control over them.

Vasile Snr and other members of the Dragoi family made the travel arrangements for the victims to come to the UK from Romania and placed them in four houses in east London. In order to hide the number of people living in the properties during local council inspections, bunk beds were hidden in the loft.

Living in cramped accommodation of up to 26 in a single terraced house, the victims were presented with false debts and provided with spurious reasons for withholding wages.

Accommodation at homes in Mitcham Rd
Accommodation at homes in Mitcham Rd

Paul Goddard, from the CPS, said: “These individuals used their position to prey on and exploit many economically vulnerable workers who could not stand up to them.

“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.”

Vasile Dragoi Snr controlled the family and was described as “the big boss”. He recruited the workers and arranged their transport to the UK.  His sons were the controlling forces in the houses and found employment and enforced the invented debts.

Accommodation in homes in Ladysmith Rd
Accommodation in homes in Ladysmith Rd

When they were challenged, they responded by menacing and threatening the disgruntled workers.

The prosecution was able to use evidence including statements from the victims, close cooperation with Romanian police, and analysis of finances, tax records, company transactions and flight details, to prove the case against the defendants.

Notes to editors

  • All five defendants were convicted of (1) conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation between 1 January 2017 and 20 October 2017, and (2) conspiracy to convert criminal property between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017
    • Vasilie Dragoi Snr (DOB: 03/03/1960) is from Forest Gate in the London borough of Newham
    • Marian Podianu [son of VD] (DOB: 28/12/1977) is from East Ham in the London borough of Newham
    • Florinel Bobi Dragoi [son of  VD] (DOB: 07/03/1988) is from East Ham in the London borough of Newham
    • Ion Bogdan Dragoi [son of VD] (DOB: 12/01/1996) is from East Ham in the London borough of Newham
    • Alexandra Ciocodan [wife of Ion] [DOB: 28/03/1994] is from East Ham in the London borough of Newham
  • The homes were in Dickens Road, Ladysmith Avenue and Mitcham Road
  • Most of the family were arrested at a home in Upton Park Road, E7, on 26 Nov 2019
  • Paul Goddard is a Senior Crown Prosecutor within the Complex Casework unit in CPS London South
  • Of the modern slavery cases referred to the CPS by police in 2020/21 where the CPS made a decision, we prosecuted 81 per cent (335 cases) an increase on the two years before, and with a conviction rate of 73.9%.

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