Paul Stretch has been jailed again (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)
An illegal money lender previously convicted and sentenced for an illicit loans business was back in Exeter Crown Court today (Thursday 18).
Paul Stretch, aged 59, was investigated and prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).
He was initially arrested in January 2016 but carried on lending money and collecting payments until he was jailed for the first time in August 2017.
Following his sentence, it was established that his wife, Mandy Stretch, aged 48, took over the business ‘without missing a heartbeat’. She was collecting the money and making new loans from their home in Newton Abbot.
Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, said that Mr Stretch made 18 new loans during this period and collected over £14,000 from borrowers.
The prosecution added that loan records were found during simultaneous searches of two addresses on April 10, 2018.
Officers found £5,123 cash from a safe found in the Stretches’ Twickenham Road home and loan records were retrieved from a hiding place at a house in Torquay.
The court heard how the couple were storing and disposing paperwork away from their home in what was described as a ‘deliberate’ and ‘sophisticated effort’ to evade future investigations.
Mr Mortimer said Paul Stretch had hidden ledgers in the attic and Mandy had stored records in a pillow case found hidden under a chest of drawers.
The court was also told that Mrs Stretch contacted one victim’s daughter asking her to make sure her mother paid a loan payment.
Speaking after the hearing, Tony Quigley, head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “The Stretch couple ran a prolific and well-organised business. They tried to secrete their illegal activities from authorities by hiding, destroying and encoding their loan records. Mr Stretch continued to offend while on bail and his wife took over the business despite knowing the serious consequences.
“I hope today’s sentence serves as a deterrent to those involved in this type of criminality and reminds them that we will not stop bringing those responsible to justice. Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a loan shark is urged to contact the confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222.”
Paul Thomas, Head of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service said: “Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable people who are often in the most desperate circumstances. They offer what can seem like a way out, but instead they inflict untold misery on the most disadvantaged in our communities.
“Devon Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service will continue to work with partners and other agencies to help hold illegal money lenders to account.”
Sentencing Mr and Mrs Stretch, Recorder Meeke QC said: “Money lending is a highly regulated industry to protect the vulnerable in our society. You knew perfectly well that your activities were a criminal offence. You were careful in hiding your records away and making entries which were false and deceptive.”
Paul Stretch was jailed for two years and three months again and his wife was sentenced for nine months, suspended for two years.
To report a loan shark call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or email us.