Jailed for her role in slavery group - The Evesham Observer

Jailed for her role in slavery group

Evesham Editorial 12th Jul, 2019   0

AN EVESHAM woman who signed up dozens of victims to Britain’s biggest modern slavery network has been jailed for five years.

Julianna Chodakowicz acted as the insider for the Polish gang who trafficked up to 400 people to the region and were brought to justice by West Midlands Police following a four-year investigation.

The 24-year-old was among the gang of five men and three women who were collectively jailed at Birmingham Crown Court for more than 55 years after exploiting vulnerable people with the promise of employment, money and accommodation.

Victims were made to work in squalid conditions for long hours on farms, rubbish recycling centres and turkey-gutting factories.

They were housed in vermin-infested properties across the Midlands – often crammed four to a room and fed out-of-date food. They were paid as little as £20 per week by traffickers who pocketed the bulk of their salaries.

Bank accounts were opened in victims’ names using bogus addresses, but were controlled by the gang-masters.

Chodakowicz was caught after her employer Workforce Staffing, based on Church Road, Redditch and across Worcestershire, worked closely with police chiefs to uncover the threat.

In 2015 Workforce unwittingly took the trafficker who signed-up dozens of victims in her role.

The Observer understands Chodakowicz worked on a temporary contract for a short period before any issues around her involvement in the gang’s activity came to light.

At that time Workforce worked with police to build a case against her and the rest of the gang, whose trafficking brought in approximately £2million between June 2012 and October 2017.

Joe Alekna, managing director at Workforce Staffing, said: “We were certainly wary of trafficking problems but since then we have become far more vigilant and we would encourage others to do the same.

“We do additional background checks and regular spot-checks to make sure people are aware how much they’re being paid and what is considered a normal wage.”

Branch operations director Trudy Harding said: “Traffickers will often target people who speak little English, and will come into our offices with those people and try and sign them up for work.

“We know how to spot the signs of someone who is being exploited and will always report suspicious activity to the police no matter how insignificant it seems.”

Police now regularly ask Workforce for its help with identifying suspects and victims.

Senior Investigating Officer, Det Chief Insp Nick Dale, said a total of 92 victims were identified – including three women – of which 66 provided evidence to the court.

But he suspects the gang may have exploited another 200 people.

“This was trafficking and exploitation on a massive scale; this gang treated these people, their fellow countrymen, as commodities purely for their own greed.

“What they did was abhorrent: they subjected victims to a demi-life of misery and poverty. They forced them into work and, if they objected, they were beaten or threatened with violence and told family members back home would be attacked. Some were told they would be taken to the woods to dig their own graves. One man who had an accident at work was forced back to the factory and denied hospital treatment, leaving him with long-term damage to his arm,” he added.


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