Stoke-on-Trent woman sentenced for illegal money lending

Rita Tahwa sentenced for illegal money lending

A woman from Stoke-on-Trent has been handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting unlawful money lending amongst the Zimbabwean community.

Rita Tahwa, 43, started lending money after she was appointed as the administrator of a community borrowing scheme known as a ’round’.  Under the new scheme, the defendant issued loan agreements to fellow Zimbabweans and profited significantly by charging members interest.

Tahwa, of Briarwood Place in Meir, appeared at  Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Thursday, 31 January, and was sentenced to 10 months’ jail, suspended for 18 months and given a community order for 12 months and 180 hours unpaid work. 

Recorder Walker also ordered Tahwa to pay £40,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This must be paid in 3 months, otherwise the defendant will face a further 9 months’ imprisonment. In addition, she must also pay £600 in prosecution costs.

The case was prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council trading standards and Staffordshire Police, following a report from a victim.

On 13 July 2016, officers from the IMLT worked alongside the police to execute a warrant at the defendant’s home. During a search of the address, documents containing evidence of illegal money lending were recovered. Furthermore, handwritten lists of customers and several loan agreements were also seized.

Jonathan Barker, prosecuting, told the court that Tahwa had been operating as an illegal money lender between February 2014 and July 2016.

Banking records revealed that the defendant had issued over 500 loans to around 100 members of the Zimbabwe UK community.

The prosecution added that some of the loan amounts ran into the many thousands and customers were required to sign an agreement where they put up assets such as a car against the loan.

One victim said she was threatened with being shamed in front of her colleagues if she could not repay her loan.

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:

“Perpetrators need to realise that this kind of activity will not be tolerated and by working with our partners we will do everything in our power to ensure those involved are brought to justice.

“I would urge anyone with information about illegal money lending to contact the team in confidence.”

An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt.

Cllr Randy Conteh, Stoke-on-Trent cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said:

“Loan sharks are notorious for targeting people when they are at their most desperate, exploiting and profiting from their situation, and threatening and intimidating victims.  I would like to reassure residents that the city council is absolutely determined to identify the people responsible for illegally lending money, and to stop loan sharking in our communities”.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 330 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222

Text a report to 078600 22116

Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk

Email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.uk 

Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject