A 70-year-old loan shark was ordered to hand over £33,000 of his ill-gotten gains after avoiding jail over illegal money lending charges.
Brian Bridges, who operated as a lender in Walton, Wakefield, was yesterday handed a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to 11 offences of carrying on a consumer credit business without a licence.
Bridges, of Elmwood Avenue, ran the illegal business for more than a decade, following the lapse of his Consumer Credit Licence in 2001.
Thirteen victims came forward to state that they had borrowed from him during the course of a decade.
Most had been introduced to Bridges through friends and taken out several loans.
Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court how interest on the loans varied, and there was no paperwork provided.
Typically the loans were for fairly small amounts, such as a loan for £100 with £140 to be paid back in weekly payments, or £300 to be paid back in 20 weekly instalments of £20.
Bridges was arrested at his home in November 2012 when evidence was found which showed Bridges had made more than £30,000 from providing illegal loans.
A total of £7920 was found at the property and he had more than £20,000 in his bank accounts.
Paperwork found at his home showed he had loaned out £42,000 and collected £63,000 in 2011 and 2012.
The court heard Bridges and his wife were both retired and they suffered from poor health.
David Lodge, Division Manager at West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “This case exemplifies how loan sharks may appear to be offering a community service, but are profiteering at the expense of others.”
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “This prosecution sends a clear message that loan sharks will not be tolerated. We will continue to crack down on those who operate illegally and exploit others.”
Judge James Spencer, QC, ordered Bridges to pay £33,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. He must pay the sum withing six months or face being jailed for 12 months.
The investigation and prosecution was led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with West Yorkshire Joint Services.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 222 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years-worth of custodial sentences.
They have written off almost £40m worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.
Funded by the National Trading Standards Board, the Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams, England, Scotland and Wales.
Hosted by Birmingham City Council and working in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities up and down the country, the England Team consists of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity.
The project was piloted in 2004 and expanded in 2007.