Crime boss and his sons jailed on slave labour charges for 22 years

Romanian crime boss and his three sons who lured 26 victims to UK with the promise of construction work before forcing them into slave labour are jailed for 22 years

  • Vasile Dragoi was jailed for six years, his sons received more than five years each
  • They told victims they had jobs for them in the construction industry in the UK
  • His sons Ion Dragoi, Marian Podianu and Florinel Dragoi threatened the victims
  • They were forced into slums by the dozen and their £50 wages were withheld 
  • Four members of a Romanian crime family who made a fortune keeping at least 26 slave labourers in a terraced house have been jailed for a total of 22 years.

    Their victims brought to the UK from Romania and were promised £50 a day to work in the construction industry with free food and accommodation.

    But once they were crammed into the slums run by 62-year-old Vasile Dragoi – dubbed the ‘big boss’ – and his family, their wages were withheld and they were presented with bogus bills.

    Their identification documents were seized and workers who challenged the family were threatened by Dragoi and his sons, Ion Dragoi, 26, Marian Podianu, 44, and 34-year-old Florinel Dragoi.

    Judge Michael Hopmeier jailed Vasile for six years; Marian and Florinel were both jailed for five years and three months while Ion received five years and seven months.

    Ion’s wife Alexandra Ciocodan, 28, was spared jail in an act of ‘mercy’, receiving a prison sentence of two years suspended over 18 months.

    Vasile Dragoi was jailed for six years for his role as head of the family, which lured victims to the UK with false promises of well-paid construction work before trapping them in 'modern slavery' conditions with no pay

    Vasile Dragoi was jailed for six years for his role as head of the family, which lured victims to the UK with false promises of well-paid construction work before trapping them in ‘modern slavery’ conditions with no pay

    Florinel Dragoi is one of three sons said to have threatened the victims when they spoke out about the family's criminal offences

    Marian Podiani (pictured) was one of three of Vasile's sons to have been jailed

    Florinel Dragoi (left) and Marian Podiani (right) were both jailed for five years and three months

    Ion Dragoi received a longer sentence than his older brothers

    Alexandra Ciocodan was spared jail time with a suspended sentence

    Ion Dragoi (left) was sentenced to five years and seven months in jail, while his wife Alexandra Ciocodan (right) avoided jail as an act of ‘mercy’ from the judge

    As the four men left the dock for the cells, Vasile blew a kiss to weeping supporters in the public gallery, while Ion kissed his wife who was clutching his hand, sobbing.

    Vasile was head of the family and ran the criminal enterprise as ‘the big boss’, the court heard.

    Prosecutor Edward Franklin said: ‘He was the recruiter.

    ‘It was to his house that some of the victims were initially brought before they were sent on to the other four properties.

    ‘It was the prosecution’s case that it was at his house that Vasile Dragoi Snr allotted, effectively, the people that were brought over.

    ‘He was also the person to arrange the travel to the relevant airport in Romania and frequently to accompany victims over to this country.

    ‘And the fact that the victims had the impression that he was the boss is not irrelevant in our submission.

    ‘They would have lived for considerable periods of time in the property…more than anyone in this case being able to appreciate the true nature of the hierarchy.

    ‘It seems that his address was very much the hub and the spokes of the wheel were the four properties which were run by his sons.

    ‘So for those reasons we would say that he was…in a leading role.’

    Beds were squeezed into a room in Ladysmith Avenue, East Ham, east London - where the victims had to sleep

    Beds were squeezed into a room in Ladysmith Avenue, 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 Mitcham Road

    Bunk beds were squeezed into loft spaces to avoid the attention of the council during inspections. Pictured: A room at a property in Mitcham Road

    The CPS says up to 26 slave labourers were held in one of the properties

    The CPS says up to 26 slave labourers were held in one of the properties

    The family ran a network of construction companies with one firm alone turning over £675,000 between 2016 and 2018.

    ‘You can see there is a huge spike of income at the time the Crown alleges that they were involved in criminality,’ the prosecutor 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.

    Some of the workers were made to sleep in bunk beds installed in a loft, Southwark crown court heard.

    Earlier the judge said: ‘It 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.

    ‘These were victims, people who were exploited for money. I saw them, heard them.

    ‘It was planned, it was executed and it would have continued had it not been disrupted.’

    Sheryl Nwosu, defending Dragoi senior, said: ‘We reject the Crown’s assertion that Mr Dragoi senior took on a leading role. We submit that his role can be defined as significant in that he was recruiting some of the individuals who then travelled to the UK.

    ‘Nevertheless that particular role does not mean he had overarching control over the conspiracy.

    Vasile Dragoi, of Derbyshire; 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.

    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.’

    The prosecution will now pursue confiscation orders against the defendants under the Proceeds of Crime Act as well as slavery and trafficking prevention orders under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.