Modern slavery: Human trafficking family jailed after forcing woman to work as a prostitute in Ilford

Catalin, Valentina and Constantin Mihai have been jailed. Photos: Met Police

Catalin, Valentina and Constantin Mihai have been jailed. Photos: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Three people from the same family who trafficked a vulnerable 20-year-old woman to the UK and forced her to work as a prostitute in Ilford for three years were jailed for a total of 24 years on Friday, May 25.

Constantin Aurel Mihai, 37, was jailed for nine years, Valentina Mihai, 37, was jailed for six years andCatalin Marian Mihai, 32, was jailed for eight years.

All three are from Targoviste in Romania and were founded guilty of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution and money laundering.

The investigation by the Met’s Kidnap and Modern Slavery Unit began in November 2015 following a referral from the Romanian Police.

In January 2012, the victim - then a 20-year-old woman - was taken to the Mihais’ home in Romania, and “purchased” by Constantin and his wife Valentina for 10,000 Euros.

The victim was taken against her will to the UK, and forced to work as a prostitute in Ilford. Her identity documents were taken from her and she was subjected to regular beatings from Constantin. She was also plied with alcohol and cocaine in order that she become compliant and dependant on her captors.

When Constantin returned to Romania, Valentina controlled the woman in the absence of her husband. The victim was given a phone linked to their iCloud accounts so that her communications and movements could be monitored at all times. She was prevented from any contact with her family and forced tell them that she didn’t want to see them anymore.

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At one point the family were making between £400 and £600 a day. Constantin Mihai was receiving money via Moneygram and in cash and used the money to buy multiple expensive mobile telephones and cars.

When Valentina Mihai was jailed for another offence she continued to send instructions from her prison cell to the women and her husband about what the prostitutes should be doing.

After three years of forced prostitution, violence and substance abuse, in April 2015, the victim managed to secretly hide away enough money to buy a plane ticket to Hungary, where she had family connections.

She fled the UK, leaving her iPhone with the taxi driver, fearing that she would be found by the Mihais.

A pro-active operation was started by officers from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap unit in November 2015, working with the Romanian Police’s organised crime unit and Eurojust. It became apparent that the Mihai bothers had an extensive network of women working for them in prostitution who were sending them and Valentina Mihai huge sums of money through money service bureaux and couriers.

In October 2017, Constantin and Valentina Mihai were arrested at their home in Targoviste on a European Arrest Warrant, with Catalin Marian Mihai being arrested at another property in Targoviste.

All three were extradited to the UK and stood trial at Southwark Crown Court on April 9, 2018.

Det Con Alex Snigorski from the Met’s Kidnap and Modern Slavery team, said: “The Mihais are a parasitic family living off the misery and suffering of others.

“They thought nothing of ‘buying’ women and abusing them for their own financial benefit, to fund their love of luxury cars and property.

“I would like to pay tribute to the enormous courage and strength of character that the victim in this case has shown throughout the trial.”

Jessica Walker, of the London CPS Complex Casework Unit, said: “Human trafficking makes money from the sexual exploitation of individuals who are often controlled, abused and forced to work for the financial gain of others.

“Our prosecution was able to show that the Mihai family were controlling and recruiting prostitutes, demanding half of their pay, and using coercion, emotional manipulation and threats of violence to keep them under their control.