Manchester loan shark trio who exploited and extorted borrowers imprisoned
Three men who operated as loan sharks in Manchester have been sentenced following a hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court today (23 September).
At an earlier hearing Ian Parsons, 27 of Lakeside Rise, Blackley, Manchester pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal money lending and two counts of money laundering. Christopher Weaver, 37 of Maybury Street, Gorton, Manchester, pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal money lending and two counts of money laundering. Christopher’s brother Mark Weaver, 35 pleaded guilty to one count of illegal money lending and one count of money laundering.
Ian Parsons was sentenced to 32 months in prison, Christopher Weaver was sentenced to 18 months in prison whilst Mark Weaver was sentenced to three months in prison.
The investigation and prosecution was led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team as part of Operation Challenger a multi agency crackdown in partnership with Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Police.
Mark Weaver was arrested in May 2012 by Greater Manchester Police in relation to another offence, for which he is serving a custodial sentence. At the time of his arrest he was found with documentary and phone records in relation to the illegal business.
This information was referred to the England Illegal Money Lending Team who were investigating a number of reports in relation to I&J loans, the illegal business which Parsons, Weaver and Weaver were operating.
In December 2012 officers from the England Illegal Money Lending Team, along with officers from Greater Manchester Police, Manchester City Council, Tameside Council and Oldham Council executed warrants at a number of addresses across Greater Manchester.
Parsons and Weaver were arrested at their home addresses, after phones and other documentary evidence was seized.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team identified 62 borrowers and the trio were lending predominantly but not exclusively to young women with young children. The clients were similar in age, mainly unemployed or on low income wages. They all tended to be financially excluded in some respect. All of the victims in the case were reluctant to come forward.
Parson’s profited through the illegal business over an 18 month period, booking a holiday to Egypt and spending £1000 on a night out. He along with the brothers with used texts and blackberry messenger to arrange loans and contact borrowers for repayment.
On behalf of the prosecution David Hercock told the court how there was underlying theme of intimidation, with threatening text messages such as “When I get you I’ll end you” and “He’ll come and grab you and snap your jaw” sent from Parson. Parson’s blackberry avatar showed a bare chested man wearing a balaclava with the caption “One..two..Moneyz cumin 4 you.”
Although the documentary evidence uncovered doesn’t represent the totality of the business, it did show it was an organised and substantial operation. At least 134 borrowers were recorded with an annual turnover estimated at £110,000.
100% interest was added so a loan for £100 would be paid back at £20 each week for 10 weeks. The prosecution described this as grossly excessive. Charges were included for late payment, which included adding the value of the missed payment onto the outstanding balance.
In May 2013, following evidence which showed the trio were continuing to operate the illegal business following their arrests, further warrants were executed. Parsons and Christopher Weaver were then charged and remanded in custody.
Upon sentencing Parsons, HHJ Mort said “This was a nice little business and you accepted that the people you were dealing with were financially vulnerable. There was a degree of intimidation.
Christopher and Mark Weaver played lesser roles, collecting and encouraging people to take up loans.
In the climate in which we live, people are in desperate financial situations. I have to impose a custodial sentence to send a clear message that people must not be involved in this criminality. It was a well organised system with a turnover of £110,000, Victims would have been under considerable emotional stress and anxiety. There is legislation in place to stop this profiteering, exploitation and extortion.”
A financial investigation under proceeds of crime legislation is ongoing in relation to Ian Parsons.
The chairman of the National Trading Standards Board Lord Toby Harris said: "Loan sharks target the most vulnerable in society and often trap them for years – even decades – with crippling repayments, destroying lives of individuals and their families.
“Trading standards are working extremely hard to tackle these despicable criminals –the specialist Illegal Money Lending Team, funded by the National Trading Standards Board, is making a real difference in communities all over the country. The team provides a safe haven enabling victims to come forward and works together with local authority trading standards services, and other partners, to bring loan sharks to justice.
“We would urge anyone in the grips of a loan shark to call 0300 555 2222 in confidence to report the criminal and to get help.”
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council's executive member for the environment, said: "This case demonstrates how loan sharks live lavish lifestyles while their victims, often vulnerable people, are pushed further into poverty and despair.
"We now work closely with the police and the Illegal Money Lending Team to make sure these people are brought to justice, and anyone who knows anything about their operations in Manchester should contact the team's free and confidential helpline."
Detective Inspector Chris Mossop said: “Loan sharks like these cause untold fear, anxiety and distress within communities with their savage debt collecting system.
“They prey upon vulnerable people – often those who have children, who are struggling to make ends meet and manipulate and exploit these people into taking out loans with an extortionate rate of interest.
"Not only can they bully people into borrowing in the first place, but they then use violence and intimidation to frighten those who are forced to pay the money back and in doing so attempt to 'run' what they mistakenly believe is their 'turf'.
“What we must also not lose sight of is the role these loan sharks can play in funding organised criminality. The money they make by bullying decent people into such huge repayments often goes directly to funding the drug and gun trade that gives these organised criminals their power base.
“That is why Greater Manchester Police and the England Illegal Money Lending Team are working together to stop these criminals and I am delighted to see these convictions.
"By taking these lenders off the streets and dismantling their debt collecting, we are effectively drying up their funds to for other criminals and sending a message to the community that they do not have to live in fear and with your help we can stop this sort of criminality."
Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Illegal money lending is a despicable crime that will not be tolerated in Manchester and across the country. Loan sharks like these extort and exploit others to profit at their expense. In many cases they will use the worst kinds of bully tactics to enforce borrowers into paying back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford. We also find that in many cases illegal money lending is linked to serious organised criminality.
We are working, in partnership with Trading Standards and the Police on a joined up approach to bring offenders to justice. Today’s successful result sends a clear message that loan sharks will be stopped in their tracks. We will know continue to work with the victims to help them rebuild their lives.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, speak to us in confidence so we can take action. Call 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous.”
Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured 263 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading more than 167 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 22,000 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 www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
Interviews: Tony Quigley the Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team is available for interviews post sentencing- Please contact Sarah-Jane Lynch using the contact details below to arrange.
DI Christopher Mossop from Greater Manchester Police is also available for interviews. Please call the GMP press office on 0161 856 2230 to arrange.
Cllr Nigel Murphy is also available for interviews on behalf of Manchester City Council. Please call Conrad Astley in the Manchester City Council press office on 0161 234 1010 to arrange.
Footage: Footage from the warrant in December 2012 which included the arrests of Ian Parsons and Christopher Weaver can be obtained be downloaded from YouTube http://youtu.be/-qbvPSL2CRY - or obtained by contacting the GMP press office on 0161 856 2230
Stills available: Custody photographs of Ian Parsons and Christopher Weaver are attached, along with Ian Parson’s blackberry messenger display picture which shows him wearing a balaclava and a gold chain with the phrase “One..two..Moneyz cumin 4 you”, another blackberry avatar used by Ian Parsons with the caption “Mr Money loan sharks putting thousands in hospital” and a photograph found on Ian Parson’s phone which shows a quantity of cash in his lap.
For more information contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119 or email email@example.com. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
NTSB provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales. The NTSB has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 263 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 167 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 22,000 people.
The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist 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.
DATE: 23 September 2013