The wide web of prostitution network
Published 05/02/2010 | 05:00
THE money-spinning prostitution racket, masterminded by a Carlow man and his wife, netted profits of up to €70,000-a-week.
But the Criminal Assets Bureau and other agencies are now tracking investments made by Thomas 'TJ' Carroll and Shamiela Clark in six countries.
They have already identified two properties in Co Carlow, one each in Wales and Cyprus, two in Bulgaria, three in South Africa and one in Mozambique.
Gardai have so far seized €230,000 in cash as a result of their inquiries.
At the height of the racket, more than a dozen brothels were bringing in earnings of up to €10,000-a-day. However, it is understood that turnover had declined in the recession.
Gardai launched 'Operation Abbey' in 2007 after a study of the outcome of a previous investigation focused on Carroll and his activities, mainly in the south-east of the country.
After more than a year of detailed inquiries, spearheaded by Detective Superintendent Dominic Hayes, Operation Abbey culminated in a series of raids on nine brothels in Cavan, Drogheda, Athlone, Mullingar, Sligo, Kilkenny, Enniscorthy, Newbridge and Waterford in December 2008.
Premises were also searched in Bagenalstown and Carlow town while seven suspects were initially arrested here and held for questioning. Financial accounts in two banks and a credit union were analysed by CAB and fraud bureau officers seized laptops, mobile phones and electronic equipment recovered during the searches.
The gang operated through the internet and mobile phones while Carroll and his associates set up a "call centre" in Milford Haven in Wales.
They also carried out "market research" by placing advertisements in newspapers, magazines and websites to test the level of interest in a targeted area for escort services.
At the height of his business, Carroll was profiting from an estimated 22 brothels, with 18 on this side of the border, two in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.