NINE men have admitted to being part of a criminal conspiracy which saw Romanian women trafficked to Lancashire and exploited to work as prostitutes.

Preston Crown Court heard how the gang ringleader was former Romanian counter terrorism soldier Razvan Florinel Mitru, who arranged flights to the UK for the 11 women, provided them with accommodation and then touted their sexual services on the adult classified advertising website ‘viva street’.

Mitru, 31, also provided the women with a SIM card to receive 'bookings' from punters and transport for 'out calls', which took place in Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe, Nelson, and West Lancashire.

Prosecuting, Katherine Pierpoint said for that Mitru demanded a 50 per cent cut of the £120-per-hour earnings of the victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons. The court was told one woman was exploited into having sex with up to 30 men in a single month.

Ms Pierpoint said: "It is not the prosecution's case these women were forced to work as prostitutes. However many of these women resorted to doing this work due to the desperate financial situation they found themselves in back in Romania. Some had children or dependants to support. Some were living in poverty. This criminal conspiracy sought to profit from their vulnerabilities."

Ms Pierpoint said Mitru was the lead figure in the conspiracy, which generated 'significant amounts of money'.

The court heard how police started to unravel the conspiracy in 2016 when they visited a property in St Barnabas Street, Blackburn, which they believed was being used as a brothel. In that property they found Mitru another one of his co-defendants and two women working as prostitutes.

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

Police continued to investigate and generated a 'significant amount of evidence, including covert observation, CCTV, automatic number plate recognition, mobile phone evidence, advertising booking information and flight booking information.

Ms Pierpoint said ANPR information taken between July 2016 and April 2017 showed vehicles connected to the defendants were on the roads between 10pm and 6am on 490 separate nights.

The court heard how at one stage Mitru, who had no legitimate form of income, had £27,500 in one of his bank accounts.

Defending, Michael Cogan said his client accepted he was motivated by money but many of his victims were already working as prostitutes before they arrived in the UK.

Mr Cogan said: "He knows he is going to receive an immediate custodial sentence. The reality is he is alone in this country. He knows he is going to be deported. Quite frankly he welcomes it."

Mitru and eight other men pleaded guilty conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to exploitation.

They will be sentenced by Judge Robert Altham on Friday.