Three women and a man who were arrested for running a brothel were said to be the victims of poverty, a Letterkenny court heard yesterday.

The four people from Romania were described as reasonable and affable people who had been trying to earn money to send home.

The group appeared at Letterkenny District Court after Gardai raided an apartment complex at 1 Riverside Apartments, Pearse Road on Sunday evening.

Detectives revealed how the arrests were a culmination of a week-long undercover investigation.

The court heard that the women had advertised their services on the well-known contacts website, Escort Ireland.

Mihia Margarit, aged 37, his sister Giorgiana Chiscon, aged 34, Adriane Niculu, aged 38 and Elena Florea, aged 35, appeared before the court, and admitted knowing prostitution was taking place in the raided apartment.

The court was told that the women were not being trafficked but were working for themselves and were sending the money back to relatives at home.

One of the women had three children and another was using the money she gained from prostitution to put her 20 year old son through college.

Another of the women was sending money back to her own country so a relative could have a serious medical operation in Spain.

Evidence was given that the average wage back in Romania was €500 a month compared to the €50 to €60 the women were charging clients for sex for each half hour here.

The court was told that Mr Margarit had only arrived in Ireland recently and was only here to make sure his sister sent the money back to Romania as she had a serious gambling problem and was spending all her money in local casinos.

There was no evidence to suggest that Mr Margarit was putting any undue pressure on any of the women to take part in prostitution.

Solicitor for all four, Frank Dorrian, said all were reasonable and affable people and were in many ways victims of poverty.

He said Mr Maragit and his sister planned to leave to travel back to Romania shortly while the other two women, one of whom was in a relationship here, planned to stay in Ireland.

Judge Kelly ordered the destruction of the mobile phones, laptops and also ordered the seized cash of €1,470, be given to the State.

He also applied the Probation Act to all four defendants.