A family living on travellers' sites forced some of "the most vulnerable" people in society to work for them, verbally abusing and beating their victims, a court heard today.
The Connors controlled and exploited a number of homeless people, alcoholics and drug addicts for financial gain, prosecutors say.
Victims were recruited from homeless centres, soup kitchens or simply off the streets and made to carry out daily physical labour, Luton Crown Court in Bedfordshire was told.
Prosecutor Frances Oldham QC said: "Men were targeted because they were vulnerable, and kept on sites like camps under orders not to leave.
"Their heads were shaved. They were paid little or nothing for their work. They were on occasions verbally abused and on occasions beaten.
"They may not in the strict sense have been slaves but they were not free men."
Tommy Connors Snr, James John Connors, Josie Connors, Johnny Connors, Tommy Connors Jnr, James Connors and Patrick Connors are accused of offences linked to servitude and forced labour.
At the opening of their trial, the seven sat in a line in the dock, the men dressed in shirts, ties and jumpers and Josie wearing a blue blouse.
They are alleged to have coerced their labourers into working for their block paving business for up to 19 hours a day, six days a week.
Sundays were left free for further work by way of door-to-door selling, prosecutors say.
Oldham said: "The evidence suggests that the Connors family made very substantial amounts of money through the exploitation of the servitude and forced labour of their workers."
The labourers were held against their will at a succession of travellers' sites, culminating at a site in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, known as the Greenacres site, jurors heard.