A couple who enslaved 29 migrant workers to help fund their gambling addiction has been sentenced to a combined 25 years in prison.
subjected the migrants to brutal living conditions and stripped them of their earnings
Marcos Tancos, 45, and Joanna Gomulska, 46, of Bristol used their connections to orphanages and care homes in Slovakia to gain access to impoverished, desperate men, promising to house them in the United Kingdom in exchange for work. Instead, they subjected the migrants to brutal living conditions and stripped them of their earnings.
The men spent a majority of their day working at Tancos’ car wash and would pick up odd jobs in the evening, always being under the constant threat of beatings from their “saviors.”
Funding gambling habits
The criminal couple stole £300,000 ($367,640) from the victims from 2010-2017, using a majority of the money in online casinos.
Tancos served as the bad cop in the relationship, roughing up the men when they did not work hard enough and even making threats against their lives in certain situations. Gomulska worked as the faux-positive figure, helping the Slovakians set up bank accounts and insurance numbers before stealing the information.
you gave the appearance of having some insight and some sympathy”
“You gave the appearance of having some insight and some sympathy, but your experience did not deter you from supporting your partner in what you knew full well was a criminal enterprise,” prosecutors later told Gomuslka. “You had choices and you made the wrong ones.”
The men often worked 12 hour shifts seven days a week, living in repulsive conditions. Up to ten of the victims were forced into a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house, which one described as a “gate to hell.”
The conspirators were ultimately taken down by the National Crime Agency after one man escaped to Slovakia and reported the case to local police. Upon arrival, authorities found five men living on dirty mattresses and pieces of cardboard. The group had hidden loose change and SIM cards in their shoes to avoid losing everything to their captors.
Bank cards, PIN numbers, official documents, and flight information were then found on the couple’s phones. The two had also taken out multiple loans in the victims’ names.
Sentencing and more potential victims
A joint investigation between British and Slovakian police revealed that as many as 42 men fell victim to the couple’s enterprise, 29 of whom were willing to testify.
Detectives noted that the total count could be even higher as they were unable to find paperwork for many of the names that were listed.
A Bristol Crown Court convicted the couple on nine charges of forced labor and human trafficking and one count of conspiracy to acquire criminal property. On Wednesday, Tancos was sentenced to 16 years behind bars, while Gomuslka was hit with nine years in prison.
the victims had cash value to you in the same way cattle would to a farmer”
Presiding Judge Martin Picton told the couple “the victims had cash value to you in the same way cattle would to a farmer.”
The prosecution thanked the victims for their courage and willingness to help the investigation.
“Gaining the victims’ confidence has been fundamental to this case, and a significant amount of work went into caring for, and engaging with them, throughout the process,” said chief prosecutor, Ruona Iguyovwe, in a statement. “I commend every person who testified for their bravery.”