Police say they have broken up large 'modern day slavery' ring in UK

Authorities in the United Kingdom have convicted five men and three women for running what is being called one the country’s largest modern slavery ring, the BBC reported.

More than 400 people were put to work in the West Midlands by Polish organized crime gangs, police said. They were made to live in cramped, rat-infested homes, and they worked long days in recycling centers, farms and turkey-gutting factories, and they were paid as little as 20 pounds per week, or $25, according to the BBC.  

The gang preyed on people struggling with homelessness, financial and mental health issues and people with drug and alcohol addictions in Poland. The victims, ranging in age from 17 to a man in his 60s, would be transported to the U.K. by bus, and the groups would “farm” money from the enslave peoples’ bank accounts.

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One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

The network was brought down when two victims escaped in 2015 and reported their story to a slavery charity, Hope for Justice.

Nick Dale, who led the operation to bring down the slavery ring, called the operation “really complex.”

"What they did was abhorrent: they subjected victims to a demi-life of misery and poverty. They forced them into work and, if they objected, they were beaten or threatened with violence and told family members back home would be attacked,” Dale told the BBC.

"Some were told they would be taken to the woods to dig their own graves. One man who had an accident at work was forced back to the factory and denied hospital treatment, leaving him with long-term damage to his arm,” he continued. 

The gangs made an estimated 2 million pounds, or approximately $2.5 million, between July 2012 and October 2017.

In February, Julianna Chodakowicz, Marek Brzezinski, Marek Chowaniec, Justyna Parczewska and Natalia Zmuda were each jailed between four and a half and 11 years on charges like trafficking, conspiracy to require another to perform forced labour and money laundering. The group will be imprisoned for 39 collective years, a record for a human trafficking case.

Three other organizers Ignacy Brzezinski, Jan Sadowski and Wojciech Nowakowski have also been convicted, but have not yet been sentenced.