News item

Manchester couple imprisoned for illegal money lending and benefit fraud

A couple from Manchester who ran an illegal money lending business and committed benefit fraud were imprisoned following a hearing at Manchester Crown Court (Crown Square) today.

Thomas Kiely, 57 and Caroline Lewis, 47 of Monsall Street, Harpurhey were investigated and prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Manchester City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions, and supported by Greater Manchester Police. Thomas Kiely has been sentenced to a total of 26 months in prison, while Caroline Lewis has been sentenced to a total of 10 months in prison. 

At an earlier hearing Kiely pleaded guilty to illegal money lending, money laundering, two counts of benefit fraud and dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances knowing it would affect entitlement to benefit. Lewis pleaded guilty to four counts of benefit fraud and money laundering.

In April 2012, the England Illegal Money Lending Team executed warrants at the couple’s home, uncovering more than £4000 in cash, along with loan books and other documentation relating to the illegal business. £650 in cash was found at a second address associated with Kiely. 

The couple were on holiday at the time but were arrested at a later date and subsequently charged with the offences. 
The loan books, which were proven to be in Kiely’s handwriting showed more than £100,000 worth of loans has been provided. 

On behalf of the prosecution Ben Mills told the court how the couple were unemployed, living in rented accommodation and in receipt of benefits.  HMRC records showed they had not paid any tax.

However they lived a lifestyle far beyond this, spending money on home furnishings, vehicles and holidays. Between November 2005 and August 2012, they had spent more than £150,000 in cash.
They owned four vehicles, valued at over £60,000.

They’d also spent almost £14,000 between August 2010 and April 2012 on holidays to Thailand, Egypt, Majorca and Alicante.

Upon sentencing His Honour Judge Hernandez said of the illegal money lending business “It was a not a sophisticated operation. It grew from small beginnings but involved significant planning to maintain it with a high level of expenditure over significant period of time. The absence of true records shows how difficult it is to get a true figure. The hard working members of public are entitled to a degree of revulsion at these crimes that have allowed you to live beyond means.”

A financial investigation under proceeds of crime legislation is ongoing.  

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 Kate Chappell, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said: “The days when loan sharks can get away with living luxury lifestyles while their victims endure a living hell are over, and this pair will be joining many other illegal money lenders who have been sent to jail. 

“Anyone who knows about the activities of loan sharks in Manchester should call the Illegal Money Lending Team’s confidential hotline, while anyone who needs to borrow money should contact one of the city’s many credit unions.”

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “This loan shark lived a luxurious lifestyle whilst in receipt of benefits and profiteered at the expense of others to fund his own greed. 
 
"We will not tolerate this kind of behaviour. This is a successful result, which means Kiely will no longer be able to exploit borrowers and we are continuing to crack down on loan sharks across the country. To report a loan shark, call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous if they wish.”

DWP area fraud investigator for the North West, Vernon Sanderson, said: “The fact that these two were claiming benefits while they had large amounts of cash lying around set alarm bells ringing.

“When we investigated the matter alongside our partners, we found that the couple had been living a lavish lifestyle that was funded by fraudulently claiming benefits and illegal money lending.

“Benefit cheats cost hardworking taxpayers more than £1billion a year and steal funds that should help the most vulnerable.”
Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured more than 310 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading 195 years worth of custodial sentences. 

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 contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119 or email sarah-jayne.lynch@birmingham.gov.uk. 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 pressoffice@tsi.org.uk.

Notes to editors

A custody photo of Thomas Kiely is attached. 

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 310 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 195 years-worth of custodial sentences.  £42 million worth of illegal debt has been written off and over 23,000 victims have been helped. 

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. 

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