A convicted illegal money lender from Dudley has been ordered to pay back all his available assets to the courts under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
John Guest, 62, who was given a suspended prison sentence in June, had assets amounting to £134,225. He must pay back this amount within three months or face two years in prison.
Guest was given a 22-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to do 80 hours’ unpaid community work after admitting two charges of unlawful money lending, another of concealing or removing criminal property and also possessing criminal property.
Wolverhampton Crown Court was told Guest took advantage of his reputation of being a legitimate lender to identify previous customers for his own financial gain.
During sentencing the court heard how Guest had worked as a self-employed agent for various doorstep loan companies for over 20 years before moving into unlawful money lending.
Prosecutor Joseph Millington said that Guest, of Upper Gornal, Dudley, issued more than 270 loans ranging from £100 to £3,000 to 58 borrowers, charging them interest of between 50 – 100 per cent and consistently topping up loans to increase his profit margins. The majority were paying off two or more loans at the same time.
The unlicensed loans activity took place between July 2012 and August last year, with Guest using some of the old company payment books to provide loans to customers.
Officers from the Illegal Money Lending Team, working in partnership with Dudley Council Trading Standards and West Midlands Police, executed a warrant at his home last August. During the search they recovered customer agreements and payments books containing details of loans issued and collections. A total of £18,240 cash was also found inside a safe.
£18,000 in £20 bundles found in safe at John Guest’s home
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are a blight on communities and prey on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
“We are committed to using Proceeds of Crime legislation to confiscate criminals’ assets so they don’t benefit financially from unlawful activity. This outcome shows how agencies have worked together to bring offenders like John Guest to justice and sends a strong message that crime does not pay.”
Councillor Nicolas Barlow, cabinet member responsible for Dudley trading standards said: “We’re really pleased to see the outcome of this action.
“Loan sharks have a devastating impact on our communities, preying on the most vulnerable people, and Dudley Trading Standards fully supports the work of the IMLT to stamp out their criminal activity in Dudley and provides assistance with their investigations.
“There is never any need to turn to these exploitative criminals, if people do have money worries and don’t know where to turn, help and advice is available from Citizens Advice, the Local Welfare Assistance LOAN Scheme and Castle & Crystal Credit Union.”
To report a loan shark call the 24 hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or complete a secure form here.