Wisbech man jailed after modern day slavery offences
A man took control of a vulnerable foreign national’s passport and bank details before making him work 12-hour shifts for little or no pay.
Michail Charitonov, of Cannon Street in Wisbech, forced the man to sleep on a camper van mattress and use a curtain for a blanket.
The 36-year-old also took control of the victim’s bank card and bank account. Over 10 months the victim was exploited and around £10,000 was paid into his account, but he was only ever allowed about £200 of this.
Acting on intelligence, police searched Charitonov’s address on 16 August, 2017 and discovered a credit card under the current victim’s name.
Officers spoke to the man named on the card who said he was just staying at the house and had no issues with Charitonov. Police later returned the credit card to the man.
Two months later, the same man came forward with allegations of exploitation after being taken to police by staff at the recruitment agency who employed him.
He told a staff member that Charitonov had taken his passport and control of his bank account, Peterborough Crown Court heard.
Charitonov heard about this, however, and the victim initially refused to engage with specialist officers.
A few weeks later the victim contacted police again and finally made a statement. He said he had arrived in the UK in early December 2016 after his transport fees were paid by Charitonov.
Charitonov helped him find work and took control of his debit card, telling him he would keep it until the victim paid off his ‘debt’.
Charitonov told him for every day he worked he would take £15 off his debt – but he generally worked 12-hour shifts and always seemed to be in debt.
Despite working daily the man never had control of his bank account or card.
The man said he lived in a multi-occupancy house controlled by Charitonov, who also lived there.
He told police that at any one time, there were numerous occupants and the living conditions were very poor and dirty.
The man shared a room with at least one other person but Charitonov would regularly move things around so as many people as possible could live there.
While staying at the house the man was regularly assaulted by Charitonov to ensure he ‘kept in line’, with kicks and punches to his body so no marks were visible on his face.
Charitonov was arrested and interviewed. He told police he knew the victim and had spoken to him about coming to the UK, but never guaranteed him any work and never funded his travel.
He said he lent the man £1,000 to pay off debts in Lithuania, but despite this, the victim was still in debt to him for fuel and living costs.
Charitonov admitted the victim was staying at his house and that he would charge him £100 per week in rent for a room.
He told officers the living costs were fair, despite the fact the victim never had a proper mattress or any bedding. He said he charged for the space and not what was in it.
Charitonov stood trial at Peterborough Crown Court in December and was found guilty of facilitating travel with a view to exploitation, requiring a person to perform forced compulsory labour, theft and possession of an article for use in fraud.
He was also found guilty of a child cruelty offence which occured at a separate address in Wisbech.
At the same court on Friday (January 18), Charitonov was handed a total of seven years and 10 months in prison. He will also face automatic deportation once his sentence has been served.
DI Dave Murphy said: “Tackling modern slavery is a priority for the force and court cases of this nature highlight that we are doing all we can to combat the issue in the county.
“Led by Detective Sergeant Chris Acourt and our northern exploitation team, this is the first modern day slavery conviction for the force since the new 2015 Modern Slavery Act was introduced.
“Charitonov’s offences were shocking to say the least and it must have been a traumatic time for the extremely vulnerable victim, who was immediately moved to a safe location.
“Support from our victims hub was crucial to retaining our victim’s trust and confidence in this case.
“Increasing intelligence in this area is key to protecting the vulnerable. It’s important that people are aware of the signs of modern slavery and report any concerns to us.”
For more information on modern slavery and advice on how to spot the signs, visit the force website here: www.cambs.police.uk/information-and-services/Modern-slavery/Modern-slavery