Brothers plead guilty to sex trade charges

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Two brothers who had earned tens of thousands of pounds from the sex trade today (Thursday) pleaded guilty to controlling women for prostitution.

Spartacus Ilie Mihai (20), of Henly Road, Ilford, in Essex, and Decebal Mihai (28), of Kenlis Street, Banbridge, appeared at Belfast Crown Court to be formally arraigned on a total of 27 charges between them.

The Romanian nationals both pleaded guilty to the offence of controlling prostitution of a number of women called ‘J’Adore’ and ‘Elsie’on dates between December 2013 and May 2017.

The brothers also jointly pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to traffick women for sexual exploitation.

Spartacus Mihai pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property of £12,015 in cash on dates between December 2014 and January 2017.

He further admitted converting criminal property, namely cash to the value of £14,451.55p between April 2016 and May 2017.

Decebal Mihai pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property, namely cash to the value of £92,529.73p between December 2013 and May 2017.

He further admitted a separate charge of converting criminal property totalling £53,473.15p on dates between January 2014 and May 2017.

Prosecution lawyer Rosemary Walsh asked Belfast Recorder for nine charges to be “left on the books”.

These related to human trafficking and Proceeds of Crime offences.

Defence barrister Joel Lindsay for Spartacus Mihai told the court that his instructions were that the defendants wanted to proceed to sentencing without reports from the Probation Service.

However, Judge McFarland said that in the circumstances he would have to order pre-sentence reports.

The Belfast Recorder told the defendants: “The reason why I am going to order the reports is that I have to consider whether you are dangerous.

“In other words, I have to consider whether you pose a risk of serious harm to members of the public and the legislation requires me to make that decision.’’

The judge remanded the brothers back into custody to await sentencing next month.

No details were given in court about the nature of the charges, but an earlier hearing prosecutors claimed four women were sexually exploited to earn in excess of £125,000 from the sex trade.

The brothers were arrested in May last year following searches of properties in Banbridge and the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.

During a High Bail application last June, a senior judge was told the brothers were allegedly observed driving women to clients for sex, including trips to hotels.

Further research was said to have uncovered bank accounts and moneygram transfers of cash to Romania.

A Crown lawyer claimed £100,000 earned from the prostitutes over a three-year period was deposited in Northern Ireland.

A further £26,000 was said to have been wired to Romania.

One alleged victim transferred more than £12,000 to Decebal Mihai, while a second sent him over £10,000, the court heard.

A telephone account registered to the Decebal Mihai was linked to seven different escort websites, it was also claimed.

At one point he was allegedly stopped in a car with two women who each had boxes of condoms and £300 and £160 in cash in their bags.

Decebal Mihai denied the charges at the time.

He told police that since moving to Northern Ireland he earned money working as a labourer or working at a car wash.