A group who used a nightclub and sham hospitality companies to launder more than £12m worth of clients' payments for sex have been convicted in court.
Ashley Sheldrick, 50, of Wrottesley Road, Brent, pleaded guilty on May 1 to conspiracy to manage a brothel for the purposes of prostitution and conspiracy to convert, transfer or remove the proceeds of crime, according to a Met Police statement.
Terrence Hart, 46, of Upper Hamilton Road, Brighton; Anilton Soares, 41, a Brazilian national of no fixed abode; and Cassia de Sousa Rodrigues, a Brazilian national of no fixed abode, were also found guilty of conspiracy to manage a brothel for the purposes of prostitution, as well as various other crimes, at the Inner London Crown Court on Wednesday (June 17).
Police said the court heard how Sheldrick and Hart used to run the East Village Nightclub, in Shoreditch, setting up bogus hospitality companies so they could apply to merchant services providers for chip and PIN machines for non-existent events.
They supplied the machines and some funding to at least seven brothels across London, in return for a cut of the profits, police said.
The brothels were on Broadley Street, Albany Street and Edward Mews in Camden, and Warren Street, Kings Cross Road, Langham Street and Gloucester Place in Westminster.
The money was paid into Sheldrick and Hart's bogus company bank accounts, police said.
Taxi drivers were paid a fee for seeking potential customers outside strip clubs and bringing them to the brothels. On arrival, the men were offered sex and cocaine, which many paid for via the chip and PIN machines, Met Police added.
In some cases, the clients unknowingly paid up to £10,000 when they thought they were being charged a much lesser sum.
Anilton Soares and Cassia de Sousa Rodrigues were linked to the majority of the brothels to which Sheldrick and Hart supplied the machines.
On May 1, Sheldrick pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manage a brothel for the purposes of prostitution and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime.
He was also ordered to pay £6.3m from his share of 44 properties, which will go to the Home Office. A portion will be given to the Met to spend on more policing operations.
Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Geoff Donoghue said: "Our investigation started over two years ago. At the time, the use of bogus companies laundering vice money via chip and pin machines was very new.
"It served to speed up the money laundering process and further enabled brothel users under the influence of drink and or drugs to be defrauded.
"Our evidence suggests that in three years, the group made around £12.3 million. We are now seeking to recover as much of that money as possible, having already identified 44 properties in which Sheldrick has an interest, totalling £6.3m."
All four were due to be sentenced at Inner London Crown Court on Friday (June 19).