A 21-year-old member of a gang that trafficked prostitutes into the UK was branded "corrupt and criminal beyond his years" yesterday as he was jailed for 11 years.
During a three-week trial, a jury heard how Albanian-born Leonard Llanaj would violently bully his Lithuanian victims into doing what they were told once they had entered the country and been locked in a safe house.
His girlfriend Lisa Benjamin, also a prostitute, was jailed for seven years for her part in the operation which included making sure the girls were dressed in the right clothes and trained to work in the sex trade.
Llanaj, of Cricklade Road, Swindon, and Benjamin (25), of Oliver Street, Coventry, both denied a series of charges but the jury found Llanaj guilty of two counts of controlling prostitution for gain, two counts of trafficking within the UK, and one count of causing incitement of prostitution.
Benjamin was previously convicted of the same charges, plus a second count of causing incitement of prostitution.
The two defendants allegedly imported the women from Lithuania to earn money for them as prostitutes between July and September 18 2004.
The victims were locked in the flat in Stoney Stanton Road, Coventry, and became dependant on Llanaj and Benjamin.
One of the women spoke of being repeatedly raped during her ordeal by another gang member, being beaten with a stick, pinched and flicked with cigarette ash.
"These two girls were tricked into coming to England with the promise of a legitimate job and a better life, only to find themselves turned into prostitutes," Nirmal Shant, prosecuting, told the jury.
Both women had been targeted in their home land by other gang members, the lawyer said. They were befriended and told they could find "a promise of a better life" working at bars in England.
But when they arrived, they were met by a number of men at the airport. The women soon realised they had been duped.
Mrs Shant said: "The defendant, Llanaj, played an active part buying these girls and bringing these girls into the United Kingdom.
"Once they were here they were housed in a flat that he rented together with Benjamin. Whilst in the house, the two defendants set about preparing them for prostitution.
"Llanaj threatened them, bullied them and ensured that they did as they were told.
"Benjamin, on the other hand, told them what was expected of them and set about the practical arrangements. She would buy them clothes so that they were presentable for the work that was expected of them.
"They were then transported to massage parlours across the country."
Speaking after the sentence hearing at Leicester Crown Court, Detective Inspector Phil Brighouse, of Leicestershire Constabulary, said: "This was a lengthy investigation which involved a number of forces and the National Crime Squad. The victims who had suffered a great deal at the hands of Llanaj and Benjamin were able to help us in tracing the offenders, which has lead to this result."
The Crown Prosecution Service's reviewing lawyer in the case, Jacqueline Finn, said: "These people controlled and exploited the lives of innocent people to a shocking extent. They forced girls to earn them money through prostitution, with threats of violence if they resisted.
"Today's sentences are a strong signal to traffickers that in this country, their crimes are strongly prosecuted and severely punished."