Lancashire man who ran illegal money lending business receives suspended sentence
A 45 year old man from Lancashire has been handed a twelve month suspended sentence and two hundred hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to illegal money lending and two counts of money laundering, following a hearing at Burnley Crown Court.
Stephen Fossey, of Foxhill Drive, Rossendale, Lancashire was investigated by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Lancashire County Council and ran the illegal business for four and half years.
As part of an ongoing criminal investigation into illegal tobacco, Lancashire Trading Standards executed warrants at addresses associated with Mr Fossey. Evidence of illegal money lending was discovered with substantial documentation and in excess of £7,000 cash seized from the properties.
Fossey told officers he had been lending illegally to around 180 people. The information was ultimately referred to the specialist England Illegal Money Lending Team.
In May 2012 the Team executed a warrant at Fossey’s home, seizing further documentary evidence and a further £1100 in cash. He was arrested and subsequently charged.
The prosecution told the court how around 40 victims of the illegal business were traced who were able to verify that he been offering loans, charging interest and offering no paperwork. Many of the victims confirmed that he had continued to lend even after he had been warned.
Interest was added sporadically, but tended to vary between 25% and 30% on top of the original loan. Some victims paid up to £200 on top of a £500 loan, and more than £1000 was added on to a loan of £3500.
One victim spoke of how he had been repaying the loan for more than 10 years and believed he had paid back thousands of pounds. When he was struggling to repay, he was forced to take out further loans to pay off existing ones. At the point of Fossey’s arrest he was paying up to £130 a week, and was told he still owed £2500.
A snapshot of Fossey’s own records covering an 18 month period showed he had lent almost £140,000, as almost 450 loans or top up loans to 102 people
A financial investigation is ongoing and will continue in July.
Lee Ormandy, Lancashire County Council Trading Standards, said: "This case sends a clear warning that illegal money lenders in Lancashire will be pursued and prosecuted. We will continue to work closely with the Illegal Money Lending Team, police and other agencies to protect local communities from loan sharks. Anyone being harassed or threatened by a loan shark can and should get help now."
Tony Quigley Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said “Illegal lenders are a scourge on our communities. Motivated by greed, they draw extortionate amounts of money from vulnerable people, leaving them in financial difficulty. Illegal lending is not a community service and will not be tolerated. We would urge anyone aware of any illegal money lending activity to call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222”
Nationally the illegal money lending teams have secured 222 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to almost 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
Private message us on facebook: www.facebook.com/stoploansharks
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 222 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to almost 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.
DATE: 21 May 2013