A Romanian gangmaster known as ‘The Minister’ who pocketed over £15,000 of wages from a dozen starved migrant workers was on Friday jailed for a total of two and a half years.
Passing sentencing at Craigavon Crown Court in Co Armagh, Judge Patrick Lynch QC told Ioan Lacatus that he was a “manipulative individual” who used his “intimidating physical presence” and ran what he described as an “exploitive regime” on the workers.
The judge said one of the Romanian victims had described their accommodation as “living like rats” with limited showering and washing facilities with 15 people housed under the roof of a three bedroomed rented home.
They were forced to “sleep on mattresses on the floor of every room” in the house in Portadown and were told not talk to other workers or leave the house.
He added that Lacatus, who he described as a “dishonest individual” had effectively “stolen” around £1,000 per week from the agricultural workers who had come from a rural part of Romania with promises of “food, accommodation and €400 a week for a 40 hour week”.
Judge Lynch QC told the court that on arrival in Dublin, the migrants had their passports taken, were required to sign transfer forms for wages to be paid into the slave master’s bank account and sign a waver to the European directive on weekly working hours.
His wife Cristina Nicoleta Covaci (31), also of Hanover Street, pleaded guilty to entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property and converting criminal property, namely the wages of migrant workers and lodging them into her bank account between April and October 2014.