Widnes loan shark sentenced
A 30 year old man, who operated as a loan shark in Widnes, has been sentenced following a hearing at Chester Crown Court on Friday.
Stephen Peter Hugh Wharton of Wavertree Avenue had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal money lending, and four offences in relation to the possession of Class C Steroids with intent to supply. The value of the drugs was in the region of £40,000.
He was sentenced to a total of eight months custody for the illegal money lending and drugs offences, additionally he was sentenced to 3 months custody for having failed to control his Staffordshire Bull Terrier which attacked another dog and bit it’s owner. The imprisonment was suspended for two years. Also he was ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work.
The investigation and prosecution was led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Halton Borough Council and Cheshire Constabulary.
Wharton, who claimed benefits, was involved in PSI Finance Ltd, an unlicensed and illegal business, between September 2010 and the point of his arrest in April 2012.
During a search of his home, substantial amounts of paperwork relating to PSI Finance Ltd was uncovered which showed at least 221 loans were given during this time. A typical loan would be for £100, to pay £140 back.
On behalf of the prosecution Joseph Millington told the Court how Wharton and his mother targeted those who were on low incomes, and unable to access credit from mainstream sources. He provided little paperwork to borrowers, so it was difficult to keep track of loans. The pair never advertised the business and attracted new customers via word of mouth.
Wharton’s mother aged 57 pleaded guilty to her involvement in the illegal business and was sentenced at an earlier hearing.
Cllr Stef Nelson, Halton Borough Council's Executive Board member, Consumer Protection, said: "Illegal money-lending destroys communities just as it has destroyed its victims' lives. We welcome this prosecution and would encourage anyone with any information about similar operations to contact the Illegal Money Lending Team."
Sergeant Karen Jaundrill, from Cheshire Police’s Financial Investigation Unit, said: "Cheshire Police continues to work in close partnership with the Illegal Money Lending Team to target loan sharks who are preying on some of the most vulnerable people within our community. The successful prosecution of Wharton illustrates how effective this partnership is and highlights our continuous commitment to eradicating illegal money lenders from operating within our local communities.
“It also highlights the fact that in many cases of illegal money lending that we investigate alongside the Illegal Money Lending Team we find other evidence of criminality – in this case a substantial amount of illegal drugs, which were discovered inside the property. We are committed to tackling all of the issues surrounding illegal money lending and are committed to ensuring that those who choose to behave in this way and cause issues within the local community are dealt with and positive action is taken.”
Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Loan sharks may appear to be offering a community service, but they are exploiting the vulnerable for their own greed. Even if a company appears to be legitimate, it’s important to check that they are operating legally. We are continuing to crack down on this crime, as this successful prosecution shows.
We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to contact us in the strictest confidence, as we can help. Please call 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7”
Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured 287 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading more than 171 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 E-mail email@example.com
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
For more information contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com
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 288 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 171 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.