A MAN has gone on trial for his alleged role in a conspiracy which saw Romanian women trafficked to Lancashire and forced to work as prostitutes by a gang of Eastern European men.

Preston Crown Court heard how the women, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were driven to the homes of punters or hotels and earned £120-per-hour for working in the sex trade. But they had to pay half of that to the leader of the gang. One woman is said to been forced to have sex with up to 30 men in one month.

Prosecuting Katherine Pierpoint said the gang would book flights to bring the woman to East Lancashire from their homeland, organise their accommodation and advertise their sexual services on the adult classified advertising website ‘viva street’. The women were driven to meet punters, on what were described in court as ‘out calls’, by members of the gang.

Ms Pierpoint said one of those alleged members is Claudiu-Nicusor Nicusor Vlaescu, 31, of Pine Street, Blackburn, who is said to have driven one woman to and from prostitution jobs, held onto money for the gang and travelled to and from Romania with other members.

The jury was told eight Romanian men have already admitted their role in the conspiracy. Vlaescu has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to exploitation.

The offence is alleged to have taken place between January 2016 and April 2017.

Opening the prosecution's case, Ms Pierpoint, said: “This is a case about a number of Romanian men entering into an agreement to run a group of Romanian females in the Lancashire area.

"A group of men involved in their travel to this country and within this country. A group of men controlling aspects of their prostitution. A group of men making money out of them. A group of men the prosecution say exploited these women for their own gain."

Ms Pierpoint said the gang was headed up by a man named 'Mr Mitru' and there were other men who played other roles within the 'infrastructure'. That included men who drove the women to prostitution jobs, men who created accounts on the viva street website, men who organised travel between Romania and England and men who sorted out accommodation for the alleged victims.

One of those locations was a property St Barnabas Street, Blackburn, which police believed was being used as a brothel in 2016. After raiding the property police found two men who have since admitted to their role in the conspiracy and two women who were working as prostitutes.

Following that raid the gang is said to have 'changed the way it ran its business' and introduced out calls.

Police continued to investigate the gang and that led to dawn raids at properties across the country on April 19, this year.

As reported by the Lancashire Telegraph at the time one of the houses searched was in Whitebirk Road, Blackburn.

Inside police found three men, including Vlaescu, and two women who are said to have been working as prostitutes. The women had with them bags containing wet wipes, condoms and underwear, which the prosecution described as 'prostitute kit bags'.

Officers found £1,400 in cash inside one of Vlaescu's jackets, which Ms Pierpoint said was money from the two alleged prostitutes which he was looking after for the gang.

Ms Pierpoint told the jury Vlaescu was the only person in the house with a significant amount of cash on him and showed he was helping to 'control' the women in the house. He is also said to have had knowledge of and participated in the gang's activity.

When arrested by the police Vlaescu said he was in the country to visit family and was also looking at the possibility of buying ice cream vans to take back to Romania. He said he had a good job in Romania and had never been involved in prostitution in any way.

Defending, Joe Boyd said his client denied being part of any conspiracy and had not attempted to control or exploit any woman.