A GANG who set up a brothel in the middle of a quiet suburban street were foiled after those living nearby raised concerns to police.

Families living in St Stephen’s Road, Blackburn, described how they knew the terrace house was open for business when a disco ball was put up in the ground-floor window – a code to let to punters know women, who were trafficking victims, were available for sex.

Burnley Crown Court heard how neighbours stopped their children from playing outside and were reluctant to leave their homes due to the ‘characters’ visiting the brothel at all hours.

This week Razvan Zidaru, Valentina Cretu, Valentin Aurelian Ghelarse, Valentin Caraman, Miheala-Diana Barbieru and Marius Florian Serban all appeared in front of Judge Simon Medland QC to be sentenced for their roles in the commercial exploitation of Romanian women.

Prosecutor Francis McEntee explained how a police investigation stemming from residents’ tip-offs revealed the defendants formed a ‘loose network’ whose goal was to manage and sell the women for sex, to make money for the gang.

The sting exposed how girls would be brought into the UK and placed in one part of the country, such as the brothel on St Stephen’s Road, before being moved on within the gang’s network – which extended into Preston, Leeds and London.

Mr McEntee said: “There is no doubt that the address was being operated as a brothel.

“Officers attending noted that the premises were minimally furnished; apart from the beds the rooms were laid out with lubricants and condoms on prominent display – neighbours of the address became aware that a disco ball was displayed in the window, perhaps something of an update on the archetypical red light.”

He continued: “The evidence of the unfortunate neighbours revealed the brothel was set up on December 19, 2019, after they immediately noticed a large volume of traffic and footfall to the address.

“The effect on the community was enormous – parents would not allow their children to play on the street because they were concerned about the characters turning up at number 27 – a ‘conveyor belt’ of men turning up for sex.”

Mr McEntee said the essence of the ‘sordid business’ being operated by the defendants was to advertise the sexual services of young women on the internet with a business model that worked by moving women from town to town.

He said: “They would apply a particular premium to the feature that a girl was ‘new to town’. Often the banner headline on the Viva Street website, for example, offered a woman for hire as Bella in Blackpool one week and as Kathy in Whitehaven the next.”

The defendants were sentenced over four separate hearings from Monday to Wednesday.

Summarising the case during Zidaru and Serban’s sentencing, Judge Medland QC said: “This was organised multi-handed offending. You had all organised yourselves into a brothel business.

“It was just that, a business. It follows that your offending was inspired by financial reward. As you have heard from Mr McEntee, this offending has had a significant impact on the community.

“In a quiet street in Blackburn came the business of prostitution. You are all Romanian citizens and travelled here in order to conduct this business.”

During his defence of Zidaru, Philip Holden said his client was of previous good character and had originally travelled to the UK to seek legitimate employment.

Similar arguments were made for Serban and the remaining defendants.

All six defendants pleaded guilty to the commercial exploitation of women at an earlier hearing, and were sentenced for their varying roles within the enterprise.

• Valentina Cretu, 30, of Douglas Place, Blackburn, was jailed for 24 months.

• Mihaela-diana Barbieru, 31, of Romley Road, Luton was jailed for 19 months.

• Valentin Caraman, 38, of Oakenhurst Road, Blackburn, was jailed for 21 months.

• Razavan Zidaru, 29, of Douglas Place, Blackburn, was jailed for 24 months.

• Marius Florian Serban, 38, of Castleton Road, Preston, was jailed for 21 months.

• Valentin Aurelian Ghelase, 35, of Fielden Street, Blackburn, was jailed for 21 months.

They will all be deported when their prison terms come to an end.