Scales of justice© Simon Montgomery/Robert Harding/REX/Shutterstock

Two brothers narrowly avoided jail after pleading guilty to illegally employing hundreds of migrant workers on farms in Cambridgeshire.

Andrius Dambrauskas, 34, of Awdry Drive, Wisbech, and Stanislovas Dambrauskas, 38, of Ellerby Drive, were convicted following a joint investigation in the Wisbech area.

They were due to stand trial but changed their pleas to guilty.

See also: Gangmaster licences revoked after police raid

Both men were sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to undertake 275 hours of unpaid community work.

Cambridge Crown Court heard the two brothers were unlicensed gangmasters for a number of people who had come to Wisbech from Lithuania between 2012 and 2014.

The men supplied workers to companies that provided labour to the food and farming sector.

Both men were originally arrested in May 2014.

Four victims who had been provided with housing as part of the conditions of their work were traced by officers.

On at least one occasion, one victim said they wanted to leave but was told they could not.

Wages docked

Another victim said they had found alternative employment but the defendants failed to assist with transport and continued to make deductions of wages.

All the houses the victims had lived in appeared to be controlled by the defendants, who decided who lived there and for how long.

The victims were all tenants of a number of properties and paid rent but only one of them appeared on a rental agreement for a house.

The victims had come from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, where they paid money for transport to England and what they thought would be a good house and a good, well-paid job.

But they did not get what they had paid for.

Detective constable Vanessa Dodds said: “This was a large-scale investigation which has spanned over two years.”

She added: “We remain committed to tackling unlicensed gangmasters and protecting vulnerable people.“

Ian Waterfield, head of operations for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, said four different labour agencies had been supplied illegally with workers.

The conviction was the culmination of some excellent partnership working to bring offenders to justice and clean up our supply chains, he added.