Two brothers have escaped jail today despite forcing fellow Eastern Europeans to live in a “squat” after luring them to Britain with a promise of £400-a week factory work.
Andrius Dambrauskas, 34, of Awdry Drive, Wisbech, and Stanislovas Dambrauskas, 38, of Ellerby Drive, Wisbech, were sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for two years, at Cambridge Crown Court this afternoon.
The pair yesterday admitted acting as unlicensed gangmasters, changing their plea ahead of the start of a trial that had been expected to last four weeks.
They were also ordered to carry out 275 hours of unpaid work.
The court heard the pair, who are originally from Lithuania, had advertised work on websites promising accommodation and well paid jobs for their fellow countrymen.
But those who responded found they were paid poorly and had to fund their own housing and transport to their factory job allocated to them.
Gregory Perrins, prosecuting, said: “These defendants were accommodating those workers in small, over crowded houses and then charging those workers rents at such a rate it allowed them to make a weekly profit.”
The court heard the brothers made an estimated profit of nearly £190,000 by “filling up” houses with more occupants than there should have been and charging each person the going rate. They also profited from the travel arrangements they provided to workers.
Mr Perrins said: “Each room would have at least two people in it. Every room was generally used as a bedroom, including the dining room, living room and so on. It was packing the house as full as it would go.”
Neither brother applied for an operating licence from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and were therefore acting outside licensing regulations.
The court heard there were four complainants who had had work arranged for them by the brothers and were given accommodation in Wisbech.
One man, Laimonas Zukenas, travelled to the country in 2013 and told Andrius he wanted to move out of the accommodation but Andrius shouted at him.
Another also claimed he had contracted pneumonia after not being given proper clothing and expected to work in all weather conditions picking the plants.
Defending Andrius, Di Middleton said: “There is no evidence to suggest Andrius knew he was breaking the law.
“Now he knows to be that conduit is something that is unlawful and therefore as far as re-offending, the risk is extinguished.”
Stanislovas has a number of previous convictions including possession of a bladed weapon and has served time behind bars in Lithuania for the same offence.
But, passing sentence, Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said he found it difficult to accept the brothers didn’t know they were acting illegally.
He said: “What you did was exercise a rack for a period of 30 months which in effect did, even though that might not have been your principle motivation, exploited your own country.
“False promises were made about how much would be earned in this country, that you would have realised were unrealistic.
“But on that basis your fellow countrymen were exploited by you because you two knew only how eager they were to come to this country.
“You were able to in effect, by stuffing them into properties in such a way that they were overcrowded, you took a profit of the rent.
Following the sentence, Det Con Vanessa Dodds, of Cambridgeshire Police, said: “This was a large-scale investigation which has spanned over two years. We remain committed to tackling unlicensed gangmasters and protecting vulnerable people.“
Ian Waterfield, Head of Operations for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, said: “We welcome another conviction under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act which is the culmination of some excellent partnership working to bring offenders to justice and clean up our supply chains.
“Besides the convictions and sentences imposed, this investigation into the activities of the Dambrauskas brothers has resulted in subsequent action being taken by either the GLA or the police against four different labour agencies that were being supplied illegally with workers.”