Two Lithuanian builders who were lured to Britain with the promise of “riches” earning up to £150 a day were half-starved, beaten and treated like slaves.
Romas Simkevicius, aged 48 and Gedas Geidratis, aged 49 were told they would be working on building sites in Manchester, but when they arrived they were made to work up to 16 hours a day delivering leaflets without pay as part of a bogus charity scam.
They were ordered to live in a cramped room with a single bed in Higher Openshaw, Manchester where Jonas Stankevicius and Arseni Arlovich organised the collection of clothes across the city for a fake charity.
Also living in the house was Arlovich’s mother known as Alena, the partner of Jonas Stankevicius.
The court heard the victims, when not delivering leaflets asking for donations, were ordered to stay in their room while Alena had guests and were fed on left overs.
Mr Geidratis said in a victim impact statment: “We were treated worse than animals. We felt like slaves.”
Other than scraps left for them in the house, the victims were forced to live on biscuits during their long shifts, working in conditions described at Manchester Crown Court as a form of “modern slavery”.
Mr Geidratis’s weight plummeted from 72 to 49 kilos during the three month ordeal and Mr Simkevicius’s weight dropped from 71 to 61 kilos.
And when they threatened to complain about their treatment they were savagely beaten and told they would be drowned or buried if they didn’t keep quiet.
The two men continued to work against the backdrop of intimidation and violence but eventually broke their silence and reported their treatment to the police.
Stankevicius and Arlovich, were both found guilty of requiring another to perform enforced or compulsory labour at a trial in May.
Stankevicius, 45, from Lithuania was jailed for two years and Arlovich, 24, from Belarus, described as the principle organiser of the operation, was jailed for three years.
Sentencing was dramatically interrupted when Arlovich’s mother collapsed in court. The hearing was adjourned for two hours while the woman received first aid.
Passing sentence, Judge David Hernandez said: “These men were both unemployed and were builders by trade. Both spoke of hardship in Lithuania because of the absence of work . Their vulnerability was preyed upon and they were approached on two separate occasions by an attractive woman who told them of the riches they could achieve from work in the UK.”
After being approached by the woman Mr Simkevicius from Kaunas and Mr Geidratis from Kedial in Lithuania were put in touch with a man known as Valdas in May 2011.
They were promised work on building sites in Manchester, earning up to £150 a day and arrangements were made to send them to the UK.
Arlovich met a minibus transporting the men in Manchester and paid the driver £150 before taking them to the house in Abbey Hey Lane, Manchester.
They were forced to share a single room with a single bed. Mr Simkevicius slept on the floor and Mr Geidratis on the bed.
They were told they would have to wait for the jobs they had been promised but in the meantime they were to go out and deliver leaflets. The work started the next morning on May 8 2011.
The men were up at 6am and were not allowed to return before 5pm whatever the weather and often worked till 10pm.
They worked, walking the streets of Greater Manchester, delivering a thousand leaflets a day asking people to donate unwanted clothes. Stankevicius, known to the men as Arturas, collected the clothes later.
They were initially promised £20 per day for the leafleting but were never paid a penny and got no regular meals. The survived on biscuits and soft drinks, bought with cash earned from doing odd jobs while delivering the leaflets.
After a month, the men met Stankevicius and Arlovich in a park to complain about their treatment, demanding payment or return to Lithuania.
Arlovich attacked them, punching Mr Gedratias several times and kicking Mr Simkevicius in the ribs. They were ordered back to the house amid threats they would be drowned or buried.
Mr Simkevicius said his injuries were so bad he couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks.
Eventually, the two men could take it no longer and reported Stankevicius and Arlovich to the police.
Police found documents linking the defendants to the house in Abbey Hey Lane and caught up with Stankevicius and Arlovich in August 2011.
Stankevicius denied involvement and claimed he was not Arturas, but was later identified by the victims.
Stankevicius has a previous 12 month prison conviction for fraudulently collecting clothes for bogus charities in October 2011.
Detective Constable James Coles from North Manchester Division GMP said: “Both Arlovich and Stenkevicius coerced the victims into the country and supported a regime of exploitation and fear. The offenders lied to the victims and never intended to give them work on a construction site. Instead they treated them like slaves and abused their vulnerable position.
“Over thirty large bags of clothes, donated by the people of North Manchester were found in the home of Arlovich and Stenkevicius. These bags were given in good faith that they would be delivered to a registered charity. Instead they were kept by the men in order to make a personal profit.”
A picture of Arseni Arlovich was not available.