Couple jailed for running sex-trafficking and prostitution racket in Harrogate

A Portuguese dominatrix and her English husband have been jailed for a combined 10 years after they were found guilty of running an international sex-trafficking and prostitution racket in Harrogate and “flying in” sex workers from Europe and South America.

By Court Reporter
Monday, 21st February 2022, 7:47 pm
Updated Monday, 21st February 2022, 7:50 pm

Fabiana De Souza, 42, and Gareth Derby, 53, treated the women like “commodities” as they made massive sums from their illicit trade, Leeds Crown Court heard.

De Souza, who provided dominatrix and discipline services to punters in Harrogate, was said to be the ringleader of the “large-scale commercial operation” in which she and Derby, a high-earning engineer and machine specialist, flew in prostitutes from Brazil and Portugal, paid for their flights and met them at airports, before whisking them off to sex dens where men paid for “massages” and “full (sex) services”.

Prosecutor Jessica Strange said the couple had exploited the “vulnerable” women for “significant” financial gain by “controlling (their) finances (and) choice of clients”.

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Gareth Derby, 53, and Fabiana De Souza made massive sums of money from their illicit trade which included a sex-trafficking and prostitution racket in Harrogate.

The prostitutes were put at a “significant financial disadvantage” and forced to lie to police to avoid detection.

De Souza and Derby, who ran the mega-money business from their home in Norfolk, were arrested in August 2018 and charged with controlling prostitution for financial gain and human trafficking. They each denied the charges, but a jury found them guilty on both counts following a 10-day trial in December.

The charges related to six named women who worked at the Harrogate sex den and two properties in Norfolk between April 2017 and August 2018.

Trial 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”.

De Souza and Derby are pictured on CCTV clearing out the flat in Bower Rd, Harrogate.

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

“There was another (rented) 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.”

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

The couple even converted the garage at their then home in Walpole St Andrew into a prostitution den where a trafficked sex worker plied her trade.

Bundles of cash were found at this address, along with notebooks “setting out the trading which went on”.

Police also seized 10 mobile phones used by De Souza to take bookings, which showed the “extent of this operation”.

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 in Harrogate. The adverts were placed on the classified escort websites Viva Street and Adult Work and included raunchy descriptions of the women.

They 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 money usually ended up in De Souza’s Halifax, Bank of Scotland and NatWest bank accounts, but on occasions “cash simply changed hands, handed by the sex workers to one of these two”.

Between May 20127 and August 2018, some £38,000 cash was deposited into De Souza’s bank accounts at branches in Harrogate and Norfolk. About £9,000 of bank transfers were then made to accounts in Brazil and Portugal using a money-services bureau.

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.

The sex worker’s 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.’

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

Derby said only that he had an “inkling that Fabia worked at the Harrogate flat as a dominatrix”.

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.

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 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,” said Mr Lumley.

In a text sent to a friend in January 2018, Derby 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”.

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.

They were tracking the couple’s movements between Norfolk and Harrogate and an undercover officer posed as a client to make appointments for the sex den on Bower Road. De Souza would answer the calls in “broken English” and arrange the appointment.

The officer was offered a “range of services”. On his first visit, dressed in civilian clothes, he was met by a sex worker named ‘Lisa’ wearing a “revealing” short-length dressing gown who buzzed him into the flats above shops.

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.

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

De Souza and Derby, of Town Street in the quaint village of Upwell in south-west Norfolk, appeared for sentence on Monday.

Michael Fullerton, for De Souza, claimed that his client, who was assisted by a Portuguese interpreter in court, had a very deprived background and had worked in the sex trade from a very young age. She had worked in Brazil and then Portugal, at some point as a stripper, before arriving in the UK.

Richard Mohabir, for Derby, said his client had been earning about £50,000 a year as a highly skilled worker for an engineering firm.

Judge Guy Kearl QC, the Recorder of Leeds, told the couple: “What is clear is that you flew in females from a variety of European locations.

“You were not only partners in marriage, but partners in business (as well). This was a properly organised, contrived, criminal business. This was a joint enterprise between the both of you (and) you are each equally culpable.”

He said De Souza was “the one with the contacts in the sex trade” and that she had “the knowhow and made the arrangements”.

He said that one named “vulnerable” woman in particular was “groomed into the sex trade”.

“She had no money,” added Mr Kearl.

“You kept her where you could see her; you brought her into prostitution. She was groomed and then exploited. You treated these women like commodities to increase your finances.”

De Souza and Derby were each jailed for five years. They will serve half of those sentences behind bars before being released on prison licence.

The judge also made a Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order to prevent De Souza and Derby exploiting other women when they are released from prison. The order will run for 10 years.

He also set a timetable for financial-confiscation proceedings against both defendants which are due to be heard in October.

Seeking help and support about sexual exploitation and people trafficking and reporting suspicious activity

If you or someone you know is in a similar situation to the vulnerable people in this case, please call the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline on 08000121700 or make a report online via www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/report.

It is free to use, confidential, open 24 hours and is available on 200 languages.

North Yorkshire Police

Reports can also be made to North Yorkshire Police on 101, option 1 or online at www.northyorkshire.police.uk.

Always dial 999 if you or someone else is in danger and an emergency response is required.

More information about Human Trafficking is available on the North Yorkshire Police website northyorkshire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/ms/human-trafficking/Crimestoppers

If you see anyone acting suspiciously in your area or any unusual activity at a particular address, you can give information to the Crimestoppers charity 100%.

Please call them on 0800 555111 or use the anonymous online reporting form www.crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously.