Elena was enticed to the UK by a Romanian man she met online. He promised they could live together and that he would find her job work in a restaurant.
But as soon as she arrived in London in 2016 she was told she was in debt to a criminal gang, who had paid for her travel and accommodation.
Elena, not her real name, was forced to work in a brothel in Paddington, west London. One of her fellow victims in the brothel was a 14-year-old Romanian girl. The teenager was one one of nine siblings from a poor family, who had been promised a job as a waitress.
The victims were physically and verbally abused by Petre Niculescu Kingston crown court heard in 2017.
Niculescu’s partner, Romelia Florentina Radu, accompanied the women on the streets to negotiate with clients.
If the police approached while they were soliciting on the streets, they were told to lie about their identities and address.
Police later said the Radu and Niculescu deliberated worked to transfer “the sense of criminality from the organised crime group on to the exploited women themselves, removing them farther away from being able to seek the help of the authorities”.
Despite this and almost constant surveillance by Niculescu, Elena eventually managed to raise the alarm at a police station.
Niculescu and Radu were the first people to be prosecuted for child sex trafficking under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.
Another victim of a similar Romanian gang said: “To begin with they were my friends but as soon as we came to England, they started to physically abuse me. He beat me many times because I was not earning enough money.
“After a while the beatings became routine. Even though the clients did not physically abuse me I felt abused because I was forced to have sex with them even when I did not want to do so. Sometimes that was painful.”
“I felt disgusted by what I was doing and I wanted to stop but [he] wanted more money and forced me to continue. I was scared because he kept threatening me that he was going to hurt my mother.”