A case brought by the England Money lending Team has resulted in two London women who ran an illegal lending racket worth more than £4 million being sentenced.
The defendants from Tooting had pleaded guilty to illegal money lending and money laundering charges between July 2003 and October 2019 at an earlier hearing. One was sentenced to 18 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid work, the other was handed a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for two years with 200 hours of unpaid work.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) works in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities to investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity. This case was prosecuted by IMLT in partnership with the London Borough of Merton, Richmond upon Thames & Wandsworth Regulatory Services Partnership and the Metropolitan Police.
The convicted pair lent over £4.2 million to fellow Filipinos across South London, including many working at a London hospital. A forensic examination of the defendants’ digital devices revealed dozens of SMS messages, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp messages which referenced loans.
Messages revealed a consistent pattern of lending with requests for loans, extensions upon time to repay loans, penalties for missing payments, the setting up of direct debits to repay loans, apologies for non-payments from numerous individuals and reference to interest applied to loans.
One victim was told to act as a guarantor on a friend’s loan. The message said: “What is your friends name? you will have to act as her guarantor. Meaning if she can’t pay her loan, you will be the one to pay her loan.”
Welcoming the sentence, Tony Quigley, Head of the England IMLT, said: “Illegal money lenders are a scourge on society, taking advantage of people in desperate situations.
“The defendants in this case raked in millions of pounds from their illegal activity and targeted financially vulnerable victims in the Filipino community. I hope this sentence reflects the seriousness of this offending.”
Credit Union Chief Executive Martin Groombridge added: “We strongly support the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team and their ongoing efforts to tackle unscrupulous lenders and loan sharks, who pose a real threat to some of the most vulnerable members of society. We would urge everyone to steer clear of loan sharks and to contact the Credit Union instead.”
Anyone with concerns about illegal money lending can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.