A ROMANIAN human trafficking gang who exploited 11 women into working as prostitutes has been jailed for more than 22 years .

Preston Crown Court heard how the gang operated from houses in Blackburn and Preston and made significant amounts of money from exploiting the women who were all from Eastern European.

Judge Robert Altham said all the men were motivated by money and had targeted their victims , who cannot be identified for legal reasons, because of the poor living standards they faced in their homeland.

Detective Sergeant Stuart Peall , who led the investigation, welcomed the sentencing and said the victims had been rescued from a life of uncertainty.

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, some of who had children and families to support in their homeland.

Ms Pierpoint said Mitru was the lead figure in the conspiracy, which generated ‘significant amounts of money’, and directly below him were Marius Ciprian Trasca, Traian Gavrila, Ionut Cosmin Dogaru, Alexandru Peter Baltoiu and Alexandru Alexandru Pitigoi.

The the bottom of the pecking order were Marian Diaconu, Catalin Iordache and Marius Dide who were the men charged with driving the women to the houses of punters.

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.

Mitru, of Arkwright Road, Preston, also arranged for one-month fraudulent insurance policies for vehicles connected to the gang so they would not be red-flagged and pulled over by the police.

But police did manage to find enough evidence on the gang to carry out dawn raids at properties across the country on April 19.

Arrested as part of those raids were Trasca, 30, of Watt Street, Gateshead, Gavrila, 30, of no fixed address, Dogaru, 29, of Pine Street, Blackburn, Baltoiu, 25, of Evesham, Worcestershire, Diaconu, 26, of Arborfield Close, Slough, Pitigoi, 25, Waterside, Evesham,Worcestershire.

Mitru was jailed for five years and four months, Trasca was jailed for two years and nine months, Gavrila was jailed for three years and nine months, Dogaru was jailed for three years and four months, Baltoiu was jailed for two years and six months and Pitigoi was jailed for 22 months

Dide, 27, was jailed for two years and Iordache, 28, was jailed for 17 months.

All the men were told they would be deported on release from prison.

Mitru, Dogaru, Trasca and Gavrila were all made subject of slavery and trafficking prevention orders.