An Irish judge has paid four Romanian prostitutes over $1500 in seized cash – to buy one way airline tickets back to their homeland.

Judge Paul Kelly made the order to hand over the money after detectives smashed a vice ring in the Donegal town of Letterkenny.

The four prostitutes were among a group of six Romanians – five women and one man – who were charged in connection with the operation of a prostitution ring.

Letterkenny District Court heard the sex ring operated at three different apartments in the same building in the Donegal town.

The accused, in their 20s and 30s, were charged with either managing, assisting or acting in the running of a brothel for the purpose of habitual prostitution according to a report in the Irish Mirror newspaper.

Police had staked out the apartments in the Riverside complex in the town for some time.

One woman was in a state of undress within a punt in an apartment while another was hiding in a wardrobe when officers raided the building.

The paper reports that detective Mick Carroll told the court that the four women had advertised for sexual services on the Escort Ireland website.

He added that the women had been in Ireland for a number of months working as prostitutes and had been sending money home to their families in Romania.

One of the women had almost $7,000 in cash when arrested.

Solicitor Patsy Gallagher told the court that the women were all vulnerable whose circumstances had brought them here.

Two of them had young children back in Romania while another was sending cash home to her sick father.

Gallagher told the court the fact that $20,000 would build a lovely home back in Romania, in the very poor part of the country where they come from, speaks for itself.

Gallagher also claimed that the staging of the Donegal International Rally into Letterkenny last weekend was an opportunity for them to do business.

He said: “Of course the weekend that is in it they were hoping to have a bumper weekend with the rally coming up but they are hoping to get out of town as quickly as possible.”

Police told the court that the women had been overheard saying they planned to return to prostitution.

Judge Paul Kelly ordered that over $1,500 of the seized cash be divided amongst the women to buy one-way airline tickets back to Romania.

He said: “They are getting a very good deal.”