Two Hungarian men have been jailed for their part in a large scale human trafficking ring which saw victims lured to Kirklees and forced into near slavery.
Heckmondwike-based Janos Orsos, 43, was sentenced to five years behind bars for masterminding the sophisticated scam in which fellow countrymen were paid as little as £10 per week for working up to 100 hours.
Sentencing him today (Tuesday), Judge Peter Armstrong said: “This was a criminal enterprise from the outset.
“Having got people to come to this country you were in effect number one in the gang over here.
“These people were forced to work by being in an atmosphere of fear of being beaten or having no alternative economic means of moving away.”
Teeside Crown Court heard Orsos preyed on vulnerable Hungarians with promises of well-paid work and accommodation.
But on arrival they were faced with squalid and cramped accommodation, long hours with barely any pay and beatings from Orsos if they disobeyed his orders.
Workers lived in accommodation in Ravensthorpe, Batley, Heckmondwike and Bradford. Up to 50 men were kept in a single Batley house.
Beatings were regularly dished out by Orsos. One of the house rules was that no one could ever say ‘no’ to him.
They were then sent to work throughout Dewsbury, Bradford and Wakefield.
Many were too scared to escape and one woman who had lost her job feared for her life after she overheard Orsos saying she would be killed.
Orsos, of Lascelles Road, and his accomplice Ferenc Illes, 25, of Beckett Walk, Dewsbury, were part of a wider human trafficking gang.
The court heard Orsos made at least £60,000 from the conspiracy, which was sent out of the country using a Western Union account.
Orsos also pleased guilty to blackmail and converting criminal property.
Illes was described by Judge Armstrong as Orsos’s “right hand man”. He was in charge when Orsos was away and drove victims to and from work.
Judge Armstrong added: “You were aware of the conditions in which these people were living and the conditions in which they were working yet you were prepared to work for this gang, albeit acting under instructions from Orsos.” Illes was sentenced to three years in jail.
Judge Armstrong went on to personally commend West Yorkshire Police and Hope For Justice, an anti-slavery charity combating human trafficking in the UK, for their roles in the investigation.
It was Hope For Justice officers who first brought the case to the attention of police.
Hope For Justice director of operations Alan Doherty welcomed the sentences.
He said: “With upwards of 30 or 40 people living in a two-bedroom house, can you imagine the smell, the overcrowding, the dirt? People were living on scraps of food or slop that was reheated again and again.
“You wouldn’t let animals be kept in those conditions.”
Det Sgt 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 happening 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.”