Plymouth 'slave' traffickers jailed for exploiting Czech men
A gang which trafficked men to the UK to work as "slaves" and "crushed their spirits" with demeaning treatment have all been jailed.
The group, all Czech nationals, treated their victims - who were routinely threatened and humiliated - as "cash cows", a court heard.
Five defendants were found guilty after a trial at Plymouth Crown Court.
Gangmaster Ruzena Tancosova, 36, and enforcer Petr Tancos, 37, were both jailed for six and a half years.
Martin Tancos, 37, was jailed for three years, Nela Dzurkova, 28, for two and a half years, and Katerina Kurejova, 37, was sentenced to two years in prison.
Slavery protection orders were imposed on all five defendants as well as judicial recommendation for deportation.
'Stripping away freedom'
The victims, who were brought to Plymouth from the Czech Republic, were beaten and told they would be killed if they tried to escape.
They had to forage in bins for food, some had to live in cupboards and were often humiliated, the court heard.
The gang charged victims £1 to use the toilet and made them work in factories, car washes and as domestic slaves across Devon and Cornwall.
Judge Ian Lawrie QC said the members of the Czech Roma family had targeted vulnerable men and treated them as "cash cows".
He said: "What seems to have escaped all five of you is this: these offences centre around the crushing of the human spirit and the stripping away of a person's freedom of choice."
Ann Hampshire, senior crown prosecutor for the South West, said: "The defendants are guilty of the organised exploitation and manipulation of a number of vulnerable victims over a prolonged period.
"The group cynically targeted people who might not immediately be noticed as missing."
Ruzena Tancosova, 36, of South View Terrace - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation, requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and acting as a gangmaster
Petr Tancos, 37, of South View Terrace - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation, requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
Nela Dzurkova, 28, of South View Terrace - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation
Martin Tancos, 37, of Wolsdon Street - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation and acting as a gangmaster
Katerina Kurejova, 37, of Wolsdon Street - charged with conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of exploitation
Police were alerted to their plight in February 2014 when two victims contacted the authorities to try to escape.
Officers began a seven-month surveillance operation - dubbed Operation Triage - and carried out a series of raids on homes in Plymouth in September 2014.
Police estimate dozens of men were trafficked over several years making, the gang hundreds of thousands of pounds.