Two women and a man involved in human trafficking, which saw young vulnerable Vietnamese women forced to work in nail bars in Burton and other parts of the country, have been sentenced.
The women were found to be working at Boutique Nail Bar in Abbey Arcade, Burton, which now has new owners since the police operation in February 2016.
All three defendants had been found guilty by a jury at Stafford Crown Court following an eight-week trial last year. At court yesterday, Tuesday, January 2, Thu Huong Nguyen, known as Jenny, was jailed for a total of five years.
The 49-year-old, of Southdown Road, Bath, was convicted of conspiring to arrange or facilitate the movement of people for labour exploitation. She was also found guilty of conspiring to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour.
Viet Hoang Nguyen, 30, and Giang Huong Tran, 23, both of Barker Round Way, Burton, were convicted of trafficking offences.
Viet Hoang Nguyen, known as Ken, who was also found guilty of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the movement of people for labour exploitation, was jailed for a total of four years.
He and his wife, Giang Huong Tran, known as Susan, were found guilty of conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour.
The court heard "Susan" had given birth to her second child just four weeks ago and was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Judge Michael Chambers QC said that the four young victims had been treated as commodities to be supplied to nail bars as needed.
He said they were exploited because they were illegal and had no right to be in the UK or work and had no resources of which the defendants' took advantage.
The defendants were said to have been running lucrative businesses and had been able to purchase houses and cars, and taken expensive holidays.
The couple in Burton had a BMW and had been able to rent a property in Grants Yard in the town as accommodation for some of their employees and were in the process of opening a second nail bar in Swadlincote.
All three defendants had been part of a sophisticated operation which was investigated by Staffordshire Police and four other forces along with the National Crime Agency.
The prosecution is believed to be the first successful case of its kind - within the Vietnamese community - for exploitation offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
During the trial, the court heard that, in February 2016, girls who were illegal immigrants were found working at the Nail Bar Deluxe in Bath city centre.
Two young women, 17 and 18, were placed into the care of social services but later went missing and went to nail bars in the Birmingham area and then Burton town centre.
Arrests were made at the Boutique Nail Bar in Abbey Arcade, Burton, and officers found two vulnerable young women, aged 16 and 17, who were also being exploited for free labour at the premises.
The court heard the defendant known as Jenny had two previous convictions in 2009 and 2014 for employing illegal immigrants at nail bars in the Bath area.
Her barrister, Mark Tomassi, said that his client was a basically decent woman who had worked hard to establish her businesses, and the victims had stayed at her home in comfort and she had only taken advantage of them by not paying them.
The court was told the other two defendants had "fallen into temptation" and become involved in the exploitation at their nail bars over a short period.
Judge Chambers also imposed Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders against the three defendants - involving notification of residence, business or employment, travel and use of the internet - until further notice in the case of Thu Huong Nguyen (Jenny) and for 10 years in the cases of Viet Hoang Nguyen (Ken) and Giang Huong Tran (Susan).
Applications under the Proceeds of Crime Act were made by the prosecution and will be determined at a hearing later in the year.