Ringleader Alexander Goran recruited the workers from Romania with the promise of employment and accommodation.
Once they were in the UK, he controlled their wages, directed them to live in cramped, sub-standard housing, and even gave some of them false identities so that they could work two separate shifts at Birtwistles food processing factory in Irlam, Greater Manchester.
He was supported by his wife, Ana Marie Goran, who was also sentenced for her role in the exploitation.
The pair were arrested and questioned following a multi-agency day of action in March 2018, titled Operation Brewer, which saw the victims removed from the properties and taken to a reception centre to be safeguarded.
The Gorans, both Romanian nationals, left the UK, but were arrested by Spanish authorities in Valencia this August after a European Arrest Warrant was issued.
Both were subsequently transported back to the UK by Merseyside Police and appeared before Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on Friday 30 August 2019.
Alexander Goran, 30, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to acting as an unlicensed gangmaster and conspiring to commit fraud by abuse of position.
Appearing before Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday 3 December, he was jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Aiding and abetting
Ana Marie Goran, 34, also of no fixed address, admitted an offence of aiding and abetting an unlicensed gangmaster. She was jailed for 15 months at the same hearing.
In sentencing, Judge Sophie McKone described the exploitation as “sophisticated and well-organised offending”.
She said: “You exploited people that you brought into the country. These people had come to the country for legitimate work and are entitled to protection from the law.”
These convictions follow sentences being handed out to the Gorans’ accomplices Josh Beesley and Christopher Beech in July 2019.
Beesley, 27, of Lockerbie Place, Wigan, was jailed for 20 months for aiding and abetting an unlicensed gangmaster and conspiring to commit fraud by abuse of position.
Beech, 44, of Lilac Court, Congleton, was handed an eight-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and a community order for the same gangmaster offence.