A couple who forced 29 migrants into slavery to fund their gambling addictions have been jailed for a combined total of 25 years.
Maros Tancos and Joanna Gomulska, from Bristol, used their links to care homes and orphanages in Slovakia to recruit desperate men, promising them transport to the UK, housing and steady work.
When they arrived, the men were made to work for nothing at Tancos’ car wash while the couple siphoned off their earnings from other menial jobs in the evening and at night.
‘Mastermind’ Tancos, 45, terrified them into submission with beatings and death threats, Bristol Crown Court heard.
Meanwhile, Gomulska, 46, played ‘good cop’, helping them set up bank accounts and National Insurance numbers, before confiscating their cards and pin numbers.
Many ended up working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, while living up to 10 at a time in a squalid house with three bedrooms and one bathroom which one victim described as a ‘gate to hell’.
The couple funnelled £300,000 out of the men’s accounts from 2010 to 2017 and splurged the cash in casinos and on online betting sites and second-hand cars.
They were snared in a National Crime Agency sting after one victim escaped home to Slovakia and complained to local police.
A raid on an address in north Bristol found five Slovakian men living in cramped rooms on filthy bedding and mattresses patched up with pieces of cardboard.
They had hidden pocket change and SIM cards in their socks and shoes in an effort to stop Tancos and Gomulska from completely fleecing them.
Dozens of photos of bank cards, pin numbers, ID documents and flight details were found on the couple’s phones, as well as information revealing they had taken out several loans in their victims’ names.
A joint British-Slovakian investigation traced 42 potential victims, of whom 29 were prepared to give evidence.
Detectives say the true victim count could be considerably higher as they were unable to find many of the people whose names came up in the paperwork.
The couple were prosecuted for offences against 15 of the men and convicted of nine counts of human trafficking and forced labour as well as one count of conspiracy to acquire criminal property.
Sentencing Tancos to 16 years and Gomulska to nine, Judge Martin Picton told them: ‘The victims had cash value to you in the same way cattle would to a farmer.’
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