News item

IMLT: Bradford loan shark sentenced

A 59-year-old man who operated as a loan shark in Bradford, has been sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years, following a hearing at Bradford Crown Court on 26 February.

James Stone of Garden Close, pleaded guilty to illegal money lending and two counts of money laundering at an earlier hearing. He was investigated and prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

Stone was reported to the Team, after information came to light about the illegal business.

He lent a minimum of £11,000 to at least 28 people in a period of just over a year.

One victim turned to him, after losing her job. A friend recommended Stone as someone who could lend her some money to tide her over, and she agreed to borrow £450 paying back £1250 at £70 a week. She signed paperwork, but it was not a proper credit agreement and she was never given a copy.

When she struggled to pay Stone suggested she should sell her body to help pay off the debt.

Other victim’s spoke about the loans they had, always paying back more than they had borrowed, and taking out further loans to help pay off the rest.

When the Team executed a warrant at Stone’s home in February 2012, they uncovered £2000 in cash which was kept in a bucket in his bedroom plus documentation in relation to the loans. This included fake signed loan agreements and list of victims, plus post office cards and bank cards which he had taken from victims as security.

Upon sentencing His Honour Judge Benson said Stone had charged “Excessive rates of interest to people who were by and large, young women in straitened circumstances”

David Lodge Divisional Manager at West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service said “This case exemplifies how loan sharks will befriend their victims before forcing them to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford. We fully support the work of the England Illegal Money Lending Team and will continue to send a clear message that loan sharks will not be tolerated in our communities. If you are considering turning to a loan shark- don’t- they are not worth the misery they cause. If you have already turned to a loan shark report them in confidence. “

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Loan sharks are motivated purely by greed, adding exorbitant amounts of interest and encouraging borrowers to take out further loan so the debts grow out of control. These lenders may appear friendly at first but they not offering a community service and should never be used. If you or someone you know has borrowed from a loan shark, we can put an end to their illegal activity- call 0300 555 2222 to report the crime in confidence. Lines are open 24/7”

Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading more than 150 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

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For more information about this case contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430.

Notes to editors

The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) represents all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as Scambusters, the Illegal Money Lending Teams, Safety at Ports and the National Trading Standards eCrime Centre.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.

Funded by the National Trading Standards Board, the Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams; England, Scotland and Wales. Hosted by Birmingham City Council and working in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities up and down the country, the England Team consists of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders. The project piloted in 2004, and expanded in 2007.

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