Two men who employed two vulnerable underage girls as prostitutes have been jailed.
Stephen Castle and Steven Davis ran Girls4you, an escort agency based in Shoeburyness.
Essex Police launched an investigation in April 2014 after officers found a vulnerable teenager, who had been reported missing from home, in a car driven by Davis. She told officers she had been working as a prostitute and Davis was arrested on suspicion of arranging or facilitating child prostitution.
During the course of their enquiries, the victim told police she had started working for the agency shortly before her 16th birthday and had never been asked her age, though she had told Davis. She also described how both men had supplied her with mephedrone.
Officers found indecent images of the girl and a second victim, also aged 16, on Castle’s mobile phone, as well as a large number of text messages revealing his involvement in the running of Girls4you.
Officers spoke to a number of women who worked for Girls4you, who said they would drink and take drugs at his flat while waiting for bookings, Basildon Crown Court heard.
Davis, 55, would drive them to their appointments and took over the management of the business if Castle was away or busy.
Girls4you, which operated for 14 years, was shut down when Castle, 41, was arrested on August 27, 2014 after officers executed a search warrant at his then address in Shoebury.
Castle admitted charges of controlling activities of a person in prostitution for gain between June 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014, possession of 198 indecent images of children, distribution of 13 indecent images of a child and being concerned in the supply of mephedrone.
He was jailed for a total of four years.
During police interviews, Davis, who had also worked as a bailiff, denied knowing the two victims were underage and claimed to only work for the agency as a part time driver, not as a business partner.
The former car salesman from Southend, denied two counts of arranging or facilitating child prostitution between June 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014 and controlling prostitution for gain.
But he was convicted and jailed for two-and-a-half years for each child prostitution count and 15 months for controlling prostitution for gain, all to run concurrently.
He admitted being concerned in the supply of mephedrone and was sentenced to six months, to run concurrently. The judge ordered a charge of possession of an indecent image of a child to lie on file.
Castle and Davis were also placed on the sex offenders register.
Listen to the police interview with Stephen Castle below.
Davis and Castle operated their business with absolutely no regard for just how young and vulnerable some of these girls were. They claimed to have looked after them but all they did was exploit them to make money for themselves and ply them with drugs and alcohol to maintain control over them.
Watch Hannah Pettifer's report below
In a separate but linked case two other men were convicted today in relation to sexual offences and supplying drugs to underage girls.
Mohammad Rostami, 37, from Shoeburyness was found guilty of one count of causing or inciting sexual exploitation of a child aged under 18; two counts of sexual activity with a child aged under 16; and three counts of supplying cocaine, cannabis and mephedrone.
Mehdi Zare, 32, from Chelmsford,was found guilty of one count of arranging or facilitating sexual exploitation of a child; one count of sexual activity with a child; and three counts of supplying cocaine, cannabis and mephedrone.
He was found not guilty of two counts of sexual activity with a child.
A third man Amin Kaveh, 35, admitted supplying mephedrone to two other girls, aged under 18.
Rostami, Zare and Kaveh are due to be sentenced on January 12, 2017.