News item

Manchester loan shark who exploited borrowers imprisoned for three years

A 51 year old woman who operated as a loan shark in Manchester has been sentenced to three years in prison, following a hearing at Manchester Crown Court yesterday (3 March). 

Sandra Dawn Lowe, of Arnott Street, Hulme was investigated by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Manchester City Council.

Last month, she was remanded in custody after being convicted of 16 counts of illegal money lending and money laundering following an 18 day trial at Manchester Crown Court (Crown Square). She had been running the illegal business for more than seven years.

Lowe was arrested in July 2012 when officers from the Team executed a warrant at her home. During the search they found notebooks with details of the illegal business and nearly £800 in cash.

Lowe leant money, with very little paperwork and was often unclear on the terms of the loan or how much would be expected to be repaid.

One victim ended up paying back around £125,000 over a period of seven years, after borrowing around £30,000.

Victims described how they “went to pieces” with the stress and frustration of having to constantly repay. Some were failing to pay their bills.

Some victims even handed over their bank cards and PIN in order for Lowe to withdraw directly from their accounts- they had trusted her to let them know once it was repaid.

In interview Lowe admitted she had loaned money to people, but denied charging interest.

Upon sentencing Judge Rudland said “You advanced loans with no assessment as to whether people could pay. The victims had no idea of their indebtedness to you. They saw you as a life long friend but you were ready to exploit them while benefiting yourself. Victims were robbing peter to pay paul, and you were taking advantage of this. This exploitation would have carried on indefinitely. Those who you exploited were vulnerable and their distress was evident. The sentence must be significant to deter others.” 

Councillor Kate Chappell, Manchester City Council's executive member for the environment, said: "Today's sentencing shows that the net is tightening on loan sharks and they can no longer get away with benefiting from the misery they cause to some of the most vulnerable members of society. I'd urge anyone who knows about a loan shark to contact the illegal money lending team in confidence, while anyone who needs to borrow money should contact one of Manchester's many credit unions."

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Lowe was described by one of her victim’s as” In the business of robbing friends” and this case exemplifies how loan sharks can appear to be helping people out, when in fact they are exploiting them for their own financial gain.

We are continuing to crack down on those who profit at the expense of others, and bring them to justice through the courts. We would urge anyone who is considering using a loan shark to always steer clear, and we’d encourage anyone who has been a victim of this crime to report it in confidence. Our lines are open 24/7 on 0300 555 2222 and all calls are treated in the strictest confidence“

Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured 309 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading more than 195 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 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


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) 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 309 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 195 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 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: 4 March 2014