Peterborough man jailed for trafficking people from Slovakia

David Lakatos

David Lakatos - Credit: Archant

A man who admitted trafficking people from Slovakia into the UK has been jailed for more than six years.

Police received information that David Lakatos, a Slovakian national living between the UK and Slovakia, had trafficked a number of people into the UK for the purpose of exploitation.

Between 2010 and 2015, Lakatos, 30, exploited eight people for his own financial gain, each chosen deliberately because they were homeless and vulnerable.

Each of them were recruited at a railway station in Nove Zamky and were living rough as a result of personal tragedy, debt and alcohol issues.

In March 2012, police learnt how one of Lakatos’ victims was living on the streets with his son after his marriage broke down and he lost his job.

They were approached by a group of Slovakian Roma people offering the local homeless community to go to the UK to work and live, and were promised work for £70 per week. They were in a desperate situation and therefore agreed.

They were taken to a small village where they were kept in a house before being put on a bus from Bratislava to London, where they were then met by David Lakatos who brought both men to Peterborough and accommodated them in a garage next to his own house.

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Officers were told how Lakatos had assisted the victims to get national insurance numbers and bank accounts, however Lakatos kept all the documents.

Lakatos would have his victims’ wages paid to him, with just £1.00 per hour they worked given to them.

They worked long hours in extremely poor conditions, without proper equipment or clothing and lived in Lakatos’ garage without heating and running water, with limited access to bathroom facilities in the main house.

Police learnt they were only fed once a day, usually with leftover food from the Lakatos’ family meal, and on occasion were subject to violence and abuse.

They were told they could not leave the house, living under the threat of violence but also the knowledge that if they left, the life that lay ahead was one of homelessness and destitution.

Lakatos, of Ratcliffe Street in Peterborough, was arrested on December 15 last year (2015) after police attended his home address and found him hiding under a duvet.

He was remanded in police custody and appeared at Huntingdon Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday, April 20) where he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to facilitate the entry into the UK for the purpose of exploitation, two charges of battery and two charges of fraud at Huntingdon Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday, April 20). He denied 12 other charges which will lay on file.

Today (Thursday, April 21) he was sentenced to six years in prison for trafficking, four months each to run concurrently for the two battery charges, eight months for fraud to run consecutively, and a further one month to run consecutively for contempt of court, bring his total sentence to six years and nine months in prison.

Maria Lakatosova, mother of David, also appeared at Huntingdon Crown Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to benefits fraud whereby she claimed benefits under the name of one of her son’s victims.

Maria, 51, of Highbury Street in Peterborough, was sentenced to six months in prison today (Thursday, April 21).

Detective Inspector Jenny Bristow, Senior Investigating Officer, said: “These convictions are the result of an international investigation coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), with additional assistance from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC), Europol, the Gangmasters Licensing Agency (GLA), Immigration services, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). I would like to thank all the agencies involved for their help and support.

“I must recognise the bravery of the victims and thank them for putting their trust in the police. This case sends a strong message that we take modern slavery very seriously and we will do all we can to protect vulnerable victims from this type of crime, which is all too often still hidden from public view.”

This case forms part of a wider investigation into modern slavery in Peterborough, known as Operation Launch. A number of warrants were carried out in the city in April last year (2015) which saw the arrests of 13 people. Since then a further 23 people have been arrested, including David and Maria, bringing the total number of arrests under Operation Launch to 36.

Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Tipping, force lead for modern slavery, said: “This coordinated action shows the importance and effectiveness of law enforcement and partner agencies working together to tackle modern slavery.

“This is a landmark conviction for the force and I hope this sends out a clear message to traffickers that they will not get away with this crime – we will do all we can to protect, support and safeguard victims and ensure they can be returned to freedom.”

Information and advice about human trafficking can be found on the constabulary’s website here.