Allegations: Harrogate flat 'used for sex-trafficking and prostitution' court told by presecutor

A Portuguese dominatrix and her English husband ran a sex-trafficking and prostitution racket in Harrogate after “flying in” women from Europe and South America, it’s alleged.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 2:57 pm
Leeds Crown Court heard allegations that prostitutes were flown in from Brazil and Portugal to a 'sex 'den' in Harrogate.

Fabiana De Souza, 41, and Gareth Derby, 53, from Norfolk, flew prostitutes in from Brazil and Portugal, paid for their flights and met them at airports, before whisking them off to sex dens where men paid women for “massages” and “full (sex) services”, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Nicholas Lumley QC said De Souza rented a two-bed flat in Harrogate town centre through a letting agency “so it could be used for sex…which would be advertised on the internet by these two defendants”.

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“It was run as a business by these two, controlled invariably from their home in Norfolk and the pair of them were in it together,” said Mr Lumley.

“The provision of sexual services provided by them was not confined to Harrogate (which) was an extension of an existing business.

“There was another flat in Norfolk put to similar use and when that became unavailable, even the home of these defendants was converted for use by sex workers.

"The labour force came from overseas, from countries such as Brazil, and they got here by air and their travel in and out of the country was invariably organised and paid for by these two defendants.”

He added: “As soon as the (prostitutes) arrived here, they would be installed in the flat in Harrogate or elsewhere, always with the purpose of being available for sex.”

The couple, of Town Street in the quaint village of Upwell, south-west Norfolk, each deny two counts of people-trafficking and controlling prostitution for financial gain.

The charges relate to six named women who worked at the Harrogate sex den between April and the end of August 2017.

Their trial began this week and is expected to last 10 days.

The prosecution claimed that at least one other woman was prostituted in other parts of the country including King’s Lynn in Norfolk and Birmingham but they were not part of the charges.

Mr Lumley said De Souza and Derby would pay for sex adverts within hours of picking the women up from the airport and “setting them up” at the flat on Bower Road. The adverts were placed on the classified escorts websites Viva Street and Adult Work and included raunchy descriptions of the women.

De Souza and Derby took the bookings and “made the arrangements (with the clients)” who would pay various amounts - from £80 for half an hour to over £1,000 for an overnight stay.

“The defendants would receive their cut,” said Mr Lumley.

The money, described as “significant cash deposits”, usually ended up in De Souza’s Halifax bank account, but on occasions “cash simply changed hands, handed by the sex workers to one of these two”.

Mr Lumley said one woman was flown in on an EasyJet flight from Amsterdam and was picked up by the couple who had driven from Norfolk in a 4x4 pick-up. Derby also drove a Mercedes.

Her profile soon appeared on the Viva Street website, advertising her as ‘Lisa, stunning brunette’.

The advert read: ‘Hello gentlemens (sic), my name is Lisa. I’m new girl in town. I’m looking forward to meet you and spend a lovely time by your side. Realise all your fantasies.’

Police were tracking the couple’s movements including their journeys between Harrogate and Norfolk using number-plate recognition cameras.

An undercover officer searched the escort sites and called the phone number provided on the women’s sex profiles, pretending to be a client. The call went through to De Souza’s mobile phone in King’s Lynn, said Mr Lumley.

She answered in “broken English”, claiming to be ‘Lisa’, and an “appointment” was made for the Harrogate flat, he added.

Mr Lumley told the jury how the couple “often met the flights at the airport or arranged for a train ticket to be available at the airport as they moved these women around the country or put them on a bus and sent them up to Harrogate or somewhere else”.

Following her arrest, De Souza told police she had left her husband in September 2017 with the intention of divorcing him and moved to Harrogate “where no-one knew me”.

She said she rented the Bower Road flat for over £700 a month and let rooms out to “others”, some of whom were “friends from Portugal”.

She said it was “none of my business what (the women) were doing, as long as they paid (their) rent”.

She claimed that in May 2018, she reconciled with her husband and moved back to Norfolk, to a property in Walpole St Andrew.

Derby said he had an “inkling that Fabia worked at the Harrogate flat as a dominatrix” but that “she wasn’t the type of person who would pay for adverts or run such a business.”

Mr Lumley said that photos of the “naked or scantily-clad” women – which were often false and whose profiles made out they were much younger than their true ages – were posted with the ads.

He said that in April 2017, De Souza and Derby rented out a property in King’s Lynn where they took out an advert for a “lovely blonde Brazilian” called ‘Kelly’. The purchase of a bed and other items “shows the flat was being used for sex work”

The women arrived at various airports including Manchester, Gatwick and Stansted.

“They are flown in, spend two or three weeks in the country and then flown out again,” added Mr Lumley.

In a text sent to an associate in January 2018, Derby allegedly boasted of being a “smuggler of women”.

One advert showed a dark-haired “Latina” woman wearing just a thong. In the raunchy profile, she said her services included “tantric massage, role play and fantasy”.

The undercover officer made an “appointment” and went to the Harrogate flat as a ‘client’, dressed in civilian clothes and with female back-up officers waiting outside.

Once inside the flat, he showed the woman his warrant card. She showed him a Brazilian ID card, but her responses were said to be “not entirely honest”.

Police trawled through the bank accounts of De Souza and her husband and found they had spent “thousands on air fares” and over £2,000 on Viva Street adverts alone.

“Who knows how much cash simply changed hands?” said Mr Lumley.

He added, however, that £40,000 appeared in the couple’s bank accounts during the alleged five-month prostitute racket in Harrogate alone.

Michael Fullerton, for De Souza, said there was no dispute that she was working as a dominatrix before and during the alleged prostitution enterprise. She had previously worked as a stripper.

“She says she was not controlling others (or) exploiting them, but there were a number of sex workers whom she had known…for a very long time,” he added.

Richard Mohabir, for Derby, said his client was adamant that he “controlled nobody” and “didn’t know sex work or prostitution was going on”.

The undercover cop said that on his first visit to the building on Bower Road, the sex worker named ‘Lisa’ buzzed him into the flats which were above shops. He was met by a woman in a “revealing” short-length dressing gown who said she said had also worked as a stripper.

He made “numerous” such visits to other women after responding to adverts including one for a “Hot Brazilian, full service”. She was about 57 years’ old but was advertised as 33.

He said there was another woman in her 50s inside the flat who was also a sex worker. She said she was from the “Republic of Portugal” but was born in Brazil. She had been earning about £280 per day.

Another advert featured a “Hot Brazilian” in “racy” underwear and fishnet stockings. She offered “the best GFE (girlfriend experience)” and promised punters: “Come to see me and you don’t regret.”

On this occasion, the phone call appeared to have been received in Portugal.

Another sex worker told the officer she had worked in “London, Manchester, all over the UK”.

On yet another advert, another “Brazilian” woman promised punters “the best body-to-body massage ever”, adding: “I will send you to paradise.”

She said she had rented the flat through a friend called “Fabiana” whom she met in Portugal and worked as a beautician.

The trial continues.