Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking

The Rafaels were locked up today after they used a 'desperate' band of foreign workers to pocket hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits and wages

Northumbria Police undated handout photo of members of the Slovakian family of people traffickers
Ringleader Roman Rafael and his wife Angelika Chec lived a life of luxury

A family has been jailed after making a fortune by exploiting modern day slaves who they starved and told 'you work for Queen Elizabeth'.

The Rafaels, a Slovakian family, were sentenced to 40 years in prison today after they used a "desperate" band of foreign workers to pocket hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits.

Their 15-week trial cost the Exchequer hundreds of thousands more with Polish, Slovakian and Roma translators for the seven-strong gang.

The Rafaels pocketed victims' wages to pay for gold, gambling, foreign holidays, jewellery and electrical goods.

They were able to hand over £10,000 cash for an Audi Q7 and drove around in a top-of-the-range Mercedes.

Angelica Chec
Angelika Chec, 30, was jailed for five years

Northumbria Police undated handout photo of members of the Slovakian family of people traffickers2
The court heard police obtained a picture of a suitcase stuffed with Euros


Juraj Rafael
Juraj Rafael, 38, was jailed for four years

Judge Peter Armstrong said the slaves were made to work for as little as £5-a-week as they generated thousands of pounds in wages and benefits. The Rafaels told their victims they had to pay 'expensive' rent on property in Newcastle upon Tyne.

In reality, it was paid in housing benefit from the city council.

Slaves had to pretend they were related to the Rafael family if they were ever questioned by the authorities.

Judge Armstrong said: "This concerns criminal exploitation of vulnerable people who came here with the promise of a better life. They were deceived, dominated and degraded."

He continued: "Police obtained a picture of a suitcase stuffed with Euros. It shows that you regarded victims as income generating assets who could be bought and sold.

"It was a criminal enterprise over a considerable period of time causing significant psychological harm, robbing them of their dignity and their autonomy by deliberately degrading them as human beings.

"This is a serious case of a kind which has become increasingly prevalent in recent years."

Marian Rafael
Marian Rafael, 39, admitted conspiracy to traffic with a view to exploitation

Northumbria Police undated handout photo of members of the Slovakian family of people traffickers3
The family gorged on expensive food while their modern day slaves ate out-of-date scraps

Ruzena Rafaelova JPG
Ruzena Rafaelova Snr, 58, was sentenced to four years in prison

There were nine victims in a case brought under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, exploited from 2010-17.

Ring leaders Roman Rafael, 33, and Marian Rafael, 39, both admitted conspiracy to traffic with a view to exploitation, money laundering and causing forced labour, and were each jailed for 10 years.

Roman's wife Angelika Chec, 30, was convicted of the same charges and jailed for five years. Marian's wife Ruzena Rafaelova Jnr, 37, convicted of the same charges, was sentenced to five years.

Their cousin Juraj Rafael, 38, also convicted on those charges, was jailed for four years. A youth aged 17, convicted of the same charges, who cannot be named, was jailed for two years.

Roman Rafael
Roman Rafael, 33, was jailed for 10 years

Roman and Marian's mother Ruzena Rafaelova Snr, 58, was convicted of causing forced labour and money laundering and sentenced to four years in prison.

They all lived in Newcastle upon Tyne but said they intended to return to Slovakia once they have served their sentences.

Streets in the city's West End where they kept their victims became known as 'Little Slovakia' as they shipped in workers, paying as little as £200 to gangmasters for the cheap labour.

While they partied on fine food and champagne, their slaves starved.

Benefits poured in years after some of their victims managed to flee the UK, Teesside Crown Court heard.

One of the gang tried to destroy her mobile phone which held a photo of a suitcase stuffed with tens of thousands of Euros.

John Elvidge QC, prosecuting, said slavery was the Rafael "family business", with victims working long hours, recycling tyres, washing cars, or at factories.

Ruzena RafaelovaJPG
Ruzena Rafaelova Jnr, 37, was sentenced to five years in prison

A single slave could generate as much as £250,000 over five years, he said.

hotos recovered from the family and released for the first time today show gang leader Roman Rafael, 33, with his wife Marian Rafael, 39, on luxury holidays in the Med.

One slave, who cannot be identified, was held captive for three years as his family back home accused him of ignoring them.

He told the court: "I thought I was going to get work in the UK, I thought I could trust them."

He said of his family: "I came to the UK to improve their lives as well as my own. My ex-wife and my children thought I had no time for them. I am not sure I can repair the damage caused.

"My ex-wife and children think I earned a lot of money, and that I didn't support them financially.

"I missed spending time with them, hugs, Christmases and birthdays. They thought I didn't care about them."

One of the gang, Ruzena Rafaelova Junior, told a female victim she would be 'eating dogs' if it was not for the Rafaels, who all faced a Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order.

The victims were mainly homeless people from Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

They were told 'they had to work for Queen Elizabeth', and were fed potato and out of date goulash.

The total cost of the case has been estimated at £1m. The fraud itself added up to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The cost of the legal case added hundreds of thousands of pounds more.

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