Published: 06:00, 05 November 2019
An aspiring university student smuggled Albanians into the country after being "threatened with a gun", a court heard.
But Mihail Cretu dropped his "fanciful tale" and pleaded guilty to two counts of people smuggling before trial.
Canterbury Crown Court heard Border Force officers quizzed the 23-year-old on his whereabouts at the French controlled Eurotunnel terminal in Coquelles.
Officers searched the Romanian's hire car uncovering a woman, 19, under a blanket and man, 20, inside the boot.
“This defendant at the scene said 'if I go back to the UK I will be killed',” prosecutor Peter Forbes explained.
Mr Forbes added Cretu told police he lived in the UK and had been travelling to Bruges and Paris.
Cretu told officers a gang-of-four men accosted him at a service station and held a gun to his head during the trip.
He claimed the gang had been stealthily following him from his London home into France.
They showed him a picture of his house in the east of the capital, then threatened to kill him if he didn’t smuggle the migrants, the court heard.
But he dropped the act and pleaded guilty to two counts of people smuggling in a pre-trial hearing, via videolink from HMP Elmley in Sheppey.
Defence lawyer Kerry Waite told Judge Catherine Brown his client’s motives were financial, as he fell on hard times since coming to the country four months ago, with hopes of becoming a student.
Pointing out Cretu's early guilty plea, the barrister added: “He had the good sense to abandon his story of duress and use of firearm and enter his guilty plea here.”
The court heard Cretu was "effectively acting as a courier" after being offered £1,000 to bring the Albanians into the country on September 27.
Judge Brown dubbed the convict’s previous story a "fanciful tale" adding people smuggling warrants a "deterrent sentence".
She jailed Cretu, of previous good character in the UK, for 27 months.
“You were tempted, as many are, by what probably seemed like easy money, and you will have to pay the price,” she said.
More by this authorSean Axtell