Couple jailed for multi-million prostitution ring

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A couple who ran a multi-million-pound prostitution ring of trafficked young women and girls were behind bars today.

Irishman Thomas Carroll, 48, and his South African wife Shamiela Clark, 32, admitted running the complex and organised business in Ireland from their home, an old vicarage in Pembrokeshire.

Carroll was jailed at Cardiff Crown Court for seven years while his wife got three-and-a-half years.

His daughter Toma Carroll, 26, was also imprisoned for two years for her part in laundering the profits, which in one year amounted to more than one million euro (£873,000).

The ring was supplied with vulnerable young women and girls who were subjected to bizarre rituals to scare them by traffickers.

Some were shoved into coffins and witnessed chicken slaughter before they were sent from Nigeria and coerced into a large and lucrative prostitution ring run by the married couple.

Clark, a former prostitute who went by the name of Carmen, ran a "call centre" where she co-ordinated the brothels and took calls from clients, organised accommodation and placed adverts in newspapers, the court heard.

Robert Davies, prosecuting, said the business used foreign sex workers "so they would not have homes to go to at night".

Most of the young women and girls, one aged just 15, came from South America and Nigeria, with many not knowing they would have to work as prostitutes to pay off the huge debts they were told they owed their traffickers.

Women from Nigeria underwent "terrifying and humiliating" rituals involving menstrual blood, killing chickens and being pushed into a coffin "to put the fear of death in them", Judge Neil Bidder was told.

When many women, who were not trafficked by the defendants, arrived at different locations around Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, they believed they would find work as hairdressers or seamstresses.

Instead they were sent to a rented apartment and put to work as prostitutes, Mr Davies said.

The 15-year-old girl was handed condoms, lingerie and a tube of cream and left to await instructions.

The women were telephoned by Clark, who would tell them when to expect their first client. She also told them the rates and the rules of the brothel.

"They were cynically catapulted into a miserable existence and exploited," Mr Davies said.

"They must have felt highly disorientated and frightened by their new life working as a working girl, particularly given the regime that was operating."

Other prostitutes were willingly recruited to work both sides of the Irish border through advertisements on the internet and in newspapers.

There were around 35 brothels operating on both sides of the border and Carroll spent 32,708 euros (£28,580) on advertising for girls in one newspaper alone.

Sentencing, Judge Bidder said the case was "exceptional in its scale".

On the trafficked women from Nigeria, he told the couple: "I'm not sentencing you for trafficking those women and accept you were unaware of the personal circumstance of the women who worked in your brothels and you were not responsible for any violence and threats of violence.

"But the Nigerian women who were threatened with dreadful coercion all ended up working for you.

"You did not ask and did not care what personal tragedies had befallen those women submitting for your profit. You were willing to exploit them."

He added that they must bear some of the responsibility for the women's plight.

Carroll, of Castlemartin Barracks, Pembroke, South Wales, and Clark, of Gateway Lodge, Pembroke, had both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to control prostitution for gain and conspiracy to money launder.

They were joined in the dock for sentencing by Carroll's daughter, Toma Carroll, of Carlow in the Republic of Ireland, who had admitted conspiracy to money-launder.

The prostitutes, who charged 260 euros (£227) for an hour and 160 euros (£140) for half an hour, were told to pay their earnings into her bank account so that she could then move the money into an account which could be accessed by her father.

From 2002 increasing amounts of money were deposited into her bank account. In 2006 111,000 euros (£96,987) were deposited, in 2007 1.13 million euros (£987,349) and in 2008 500,000 euros (£436,880) had been deposited by September.