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The Oldest Profession

Couple ran 'pop-up brothels' from rented houses across south Manchester

Published in The Manchester Evening News
11th July 2017


Manchester
A couple operated pop-up brothels in residential areas around south Manchester and employed Eastern European women as prostitutes, a court heard. Alexe Popa and his former partner Gabriela Diac ran four such enterprises from rented premises in Rusholme , Levenshulme and Longsight , a Manchester Crown Court sentencing hearing heard.

Popa, 30, was the main organiser of the operation, and Diac, 28, acted as a ‘telephone receptionist’ for potential customers.

The court heard there has been a significant increase in the number of ‘pop-up’ brothels across Greater Manchester. This involves properties being used as a brothel housing prostitutes opening for a short period and then shutting down, then re-opening elsewhere.

Prosecuting, Hugh Barton said: “The main difference between these pop-up brothels is that they are unregulated and are not subject to the same scrutiny by the police as brothels commonly known.”

Police initially suspected there may have been human trafficking involved, but found no evidence of this or that the women, who were adults, were being coerced.

Officers submitted a data protection request to websites Viva Street and Adultwork, where adverts for prostitutes were posted. The investigation linked the profiles of prostitutes on the sites, including women known as ‘Annabel’ and ‘Coco Chanel’, to bank accounts, addresses and phone numbers operated by to Popa and Diac. Potential customers would contact the online profiles and then be directed to the brothel by the defendants.

Police attended one of the brothels in Claremont Road, Rusholme on February 22 and found a number of women, who were all dressed in nightwear. They seized phones which were being used to field enquiries from potential customers, as well as a tenancy agreement in Popa’s name.

A house in Rawcliffe Street, Rusholme was also visited by police, where they found three females and obvious signs that it was being run as a brothel.  Other houses being used as brothels were found at Longden Road, Levenshulme , and in Willesden Avenue, Longsight.

Mr Barton said the couple, both of East Grove, Longsight, were operating the brothels for financial gain, and that at the time of arrest Popa was driving a Mercedes C class, and that Diac was linked to an Audi A8.

When Romanian national Diac was arrested, she told police she moved to Manchester in 2008, and became involved in a relationship with Popa in 2014. Some of the women were found to be from the area in Romania where Popa is also from. Initially Diac claimed she thought she was fielding messages from people who wanted companionship with Romanian women.

On the day of a proposed trial, Diac, who spent four months in custody following her arrest, pleaded guilty to controlling prostitution for gain. She submitted a ‘basis of plea’, in which she said she took instructions from Popa and that her role was limited to passing on messages to prostitutes.

Defending, Erinnaz Mushtaq said Diac has two young daughters, and that she wants to ‘rebuild her life and make amends with her children’.

Diac was sentenced to a 12 month community order by Judge Patrick Field QC, and she must complete a 15 day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Addressing her, the judge said: “Even though the prosecution do not say there was any coercion or force involved in persuading young girls to work as prostitutes, its clear this business uses young women who are particularly vulnerable. It’s also clear that running brothels in decent neighbourhoods is objectionable to residents and potentially unsafe for other residents.”

Popa, who has also pleaded guilty to controlling prostitution for gain as well as two counts of possessing false identity documents, was remanded in custody and will be sentenced later this month.