A brother and sister who coerced a young woman into working as a prostitute in Sheffield have now been jailed for their actions.
Nicolae Ionita, 24, met the victim in Romania, where they travelled to the UK together in September last year. The victim made plans for the pair to come over to the UK to seek employment and plans were made for them to work in Milton Keynes. However after just two days, Nicolae Ionita convinced her to move to Middlesbrough where they lived with his sister, Claudia Ionita, 30.
Over the next month, the pair, both of no-fixed-address, went on to coerce and pressurise the victim into working as a prostitute in the town, before the three of them moved to Sheffield in October.
Until November, the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was forced to work as a prostitute in Sheffield, while living in the Hillsborough area, as Detective Constable Gareth Bryant explains.
“The pair forced the young girl, who was expecting a job, money and a nice place to live, to work as a prostitute in both Middlesbrough and Sheffield, telling her that it was her only option. Together, and especially Nicolae Ionita, they used the victim’s dependency on them as a means of exploiting her.
“They controlled where she stayed and who she spoke to, monitoring her phone-calls with friends and family and telling her what to say and as such, was never able to tell anyone what was actually happening to her.
“However in November 2017, she found the confidence to phone home and tell them what was happening. They encouraged her to tell someone and one day she left the house where she was living and ran toward two members of the public.
“They described the woman as scared and appearing dishevelled, as she tried to ask them for help. As she spoke little English, they helped her to flag down a police car.”
After officers spoke to the woman, an investigation in to the Ionita’s was launched. In June, both were due to go on trial for two counts each of causing or inciting prostitution for gain. The siblings entered guilty pleas at the start of the trial and were bailed until sentencing at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday (Monday 3 September), where they were each jailed for 21 months.
DC Bryant continued: “The woman has been so incredibly brave throughout this entire process, from coming forward to report what happened and working with the investigative team to provide statements and evidence.
“She even said she would travel back from Romania, where she returned home to be with her family, if she needed to testify against the pair.
“Her courage is a testament to getting the Ionita’s to court and now behind bars. This was a complex investigation which saw two people exploit a vulnerable young woman.
“Protecting vulnerable people is an absolute priority for us and we will always do what we can to identify those who exploit people for their own selfish gain or gratification.”
Detective Inspector Claire Mayfield, added: “This has been a protracted investigation that has seen the courage of the victim tested over this time.
“She has demonstrated great courage in not only disclosing the abuse but then supporting a criminal investigation from her home in the European Union.
“The team have worked together with the assistance of the Romanian Authorities to bring this to a successful conclusion, sending the message that the exploitation of vulnerable individuals will not be tolerated.”
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