Up to 26 slave labourers were held inside a terraced house as a Romanian crime family who lured the victims to the UK with the promise of construction work, free food and accommodation face jail.
The victims were told they would earn £50 a day, but were instead crammed into east London slums run by ‘big boss’ Vasile Dragoi, 62, and his family – with wages withheld and each individual presented with bogus bills.
Their identification documents were also seized and any victims who challenged the family were threatened by Vasile and his sons – Ion Dragoi, 26, Marian Podianu, 44, and 34-year-old Florinel Dragoi.
In order to hide the number of people living in the properties during local council inspections, bunk beds were hidden in the loft, a court heard.
The Crown Prosecution Service says this included up to 26 in a single terraced house.
Vasile, his sons and Ion’s wife Alexandra Ciocodan were all convicted of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation and conspiracy to convert criminal property following a 16-week trial at Southwark Crown Court.
Vasile Dragoi (left) was identified by police as the head of the family, while one of his three sons Marian Podianu (right) has also been convicted
Ion Bogdan Dragoi (left) and his wife Alexandra Ciocodan are facing jail after being convicted following a 16-week trial
Florinel Dragoi is one of three sons said to have threatened the victims when they spoke out about the family’s criminal offences
Beds squeezed into a room in Mitcham Road, East Ham, east London – where the victims had to sleep
Bunk beds were squeezed into loft spaces to avoid the attention of the council during inspections. Pictured: A room at a property in Ladysmith Road
Iam McLoughlin, prosecuting, told the court that Vasile was the head of the family and ran the criminal enterprise.
He said: ‘Witness statements refer to him as the big boss and there was a flavour of orders being issued to others within the group.
‘From the evidence it is apparent he took a leading role in the recruitment of individuals and arranged travel from Romania to the UK.’
The prosecutor added that the family ran a network of construction companies, with one firm alone turning over £675,000 between 2016 and 2018.
Mr McLoughlin continued: ‘You can see there is a huge spike of income at the time the Crown alleges that they were involved in criminality,’ Mr McLoughlin said.
‘This was not ad hoc. There was systematic recruitment of workers in Romania, travel arranged, housing for victims.’
The victims were housed in properties on Dickens Road, Forest Gate and on Ladysmith Avenue and Mitcham Road in East Ham, east London.
Judge Michael Hopmeier told the court: ‘I tell you what is an aggravating feature in my view, it’s that they were doing it to their own countrymen.
‘Maybe that is because it is easier because they know the culture, they speak the same language.
‘Plus they are in a position of advantage because they know how things work in England.’
He continued: ‘These were victims, people who were exploited for money. I saw them, heard them.
Bunk beds in Mitcham Road. The CPS says up to 26 slave labourers were held in one of the properties
‘It was planned, it was executed and it would have continued had it not been disrupted.’
Vasile, of Derbyshire; Marian Podianu, of Upton Park Road, East Ham; Florinel Dragoi, also of East Ham; Ion Dragoi of East Ham, and his wife Ciocodan, of East Ham, were all convicted of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation between 1 January 2017 and 20 October 2017.
They were also convicted of conspiracy to convert criminal property between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017.
Judge Hopmeier is due to sentence the family at the same court on Tuesday.
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.’