JAILED: Keith Riley (Pic: Lancashire Constabulary)
A loan shark who illegally pocketed more than £300,000 from vulnerable victims over four years has been jailed.
Keith Riley, 56, of Kingston Mews, Crabtree Road, was handed a 9-month jail term at Preston Crown Court today (August 9).
The defendant pleaded guilty to illegal money lending and money laundering offences at a previous hearing.
Recorder Reiz ordered him to pay back all of his available assets (£61,100) under the Proceeds of Crime Act. He must pay back this amount within 3 months or face an additional 12 months behind bars.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Lancashire County Council Trading Standards and Lancashire Constabulary executed a warrant at Riley’s flat on 23 January after receiving a tip-off to its 24/7 hotline.
During the search officers recovered documentation which identified 35 regular borrowers and £305,778 in loan repayments.
Prosecutor Simon Mortimer said Riley had been operating as an illegal money lender for four years since January 2015 to his arrest date.
He charged up to 50 per cent interest on the loans and one victim ended up repaying £15,310 on a £8,500 loan, the court heard.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are ruthless criminals who exploit some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
“I hope this case serves as a deterrent to potential loan sharks that crime really does not pay and justice may extend beyond a prison sentence to an order depriving them of the profits of their illegal activity.”
County Councillor Albert Atkinson, Lancashire County Council cabinet member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “I’m glad to see that another loan shark has been brought to justice. Illegal money lending is an often hidden problem which has a terrible impact on our communities, leaving vulnerable people in financial difficulty.
“It is notable that Riley was caught following a tip-off, which should be taken as a warning that this activity is not something people in Lancashire will tolerate. We will continue to work closely with the Illegal Money Lending Team to tackle this problem.”
An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark. These criminals usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt.
Upon sentencing Recorder Reiz referred to the case as ‘unsophisticated lending to colleagues and friends, with profit over four years and charging high interest rates’.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 394 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 480 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £74.9 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 29,000 people.
To report a loan shark call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222 or complete a report form here.