A Romanian brothel keeper has been given a week to leave Ireland in lieu of three years in jail.
Judge Patrick McCartan fined Mihai Selaru - who was a labourer on the Criminal Courts of Justice building site - €1,000 and suspended his sentence on condition he leaves Ireland and doesn’t return for ten years.
Judge McCartan said though some may not consider the sentence punishment “to any great extent”, Selaru’s record will be known to Romanian authorities and he will be barred from re-entering Ireland for a decade.
The judge added that he didn’t see why the Irish taxpayer should have to pay to keep Selaru (37) in jail.
Selaru, with an address at Gateway Crescent, Ballymun, pleaded guilty on day three of his Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial to keeping a brothel on Liberty Square, Foley Street from September 3 to 11, 2009. He has no previous convictions here or in Romania.
Sergeant David Gallagher told Mr Patrick McGrath BL, prosecuting, that one of the prostitutes gave evidence that Selaru took all her earnings and at one point had threatened to starve her if she didn’t get more clients.
The 26-year-old woman told gardaí she had come to Ireland the previous fortnight from Romania on a flight paid by Selaru, believing she would be hired as a domestic cleaner.
Sgt Gallagher revealed that the garda investigation began when this woman approached an officer on foot patrol in Dublin City Centre on September 8, 2009 and claimed she’d been coerced into prostitution.
The woman said she had met another man at Dublin Airport and had spent two nights at different hotels before being brought to the Foley Street apartment.
Sgt Gallagher told Mr McGrath that the man photographed this woman and Selaru’s girlfriend, who had previously worked as a prostitute in Ireland, in various states of undress and uploaded the images onto an escort website.
Both women received calls from clients after the photos, which didn’t include their faces, went live on the website and before Selaru had arrived in Ireland on September 3, 2009.
Sgt Gallagher said the 26-year-old woman described getting €130 for a half hour of sex and extra for other services but that she’d had to give all her earnings to Selaru when he arrived.
The sergeant agreed with Mr Patrick Reynolds BL, defending, that subsequent garda inquiries found that the woman had sent home money corresponding to the exact amount she would have earned for paid sex by bank transfer.
He further agreed that gardaí believed the woman was not brought here under false pretences due to discrepancies between her evidence and that of Selaru’s girlfriend.
Selaru’s girlfriend (30) told gardaí she met the first woman online and later had group sex with her, Selaru and another man.
She said this woman had known she was coming to Ireland to work in prostitution.
Sgt Gallagher told Mr McGrath that colleagues found Selaru’s girlfriend with a client during an apartment raid on September 11, 2009 while Selaru sat in another room with a hammer.
Gardaí found €130 cash on the master bedroom window sill, €1,800 in Selaru’s wallet and lubricants and condoms elsewhere.
Sgt Gallagher said gardaí also arrested the girlfriend but then decided she was a victim in the case.
She told them she was forced to give Selaru her money and that he’d used violence against her during their five-year relationship.
Sgt Gallagher told Mr McGrath that Selaru denied he took the women’s money, denied involvement or awareness of the brothel and denied arranging prostitution, but accepted he’d paid for flights and that his girlfriend worked as a prostitute.
The sergeant said Selaru’s girlfriend has since stopped work as a prostitute and is engaging with the Ruhama charity for victims of the sex trade.
He said the other woman returned to Romania to be with her husband.
Mr Reynolds submitted to Judge McCartan that his client, who has spent seven months in custody on the matter, would have received a maximum six-month sentence had he pleaded guilty at district court level.
Counsel submitted that all his client wished to do now was go home to “hug his daughter and look after his mother”.
Judge McCartan said he was satisfied Selaru was “actively involved” in brothel keeping given the “cogent” evidence of him “holding sentinel” with a hammer in the apartment’s kitchen when gardaí burst onto the scene.
The judge gave credit to the two women for their courage in the witness box and for “facing public display of their sad experiences”.
He directed gardaí to return €800 of Selaru’s confiscated money to help him leave Ireland and forfeit the balance to the State.
He said he was conscious of his failure to send out a message that people coming to Ireland to run brothels should expect jail, but explained that Selaru’s previous clean record was a mitigating circumstance.