A Crewe loan shark who traded illicit tobacco products has been ordered to pay back thousands of his ill-gotten gains or face more jail time.
Vincent Hamilton, 57, of Badger Avenue, Crewe, was sentenced to 30 months in prison in August 2019 after pleading guilty to illegal money lending, money laundering and selling illegal tobacco products.
At a confiscation hearing on Friday, April 30 at Chester Crown Court, Hamilton was ordered to repay £70,163 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and Cheshire East Council trading standards brought the case against Hamilton after officers executed a warrant at his home address in November 2018. During the search, they found illicit cigarettes and tobacco with a retail value of £8,116 and cash totalling £7,580.
A financial investigation into Hamilton’s criminal activities revealed that he had been lending money illegally since 2012. During this period, he had built up a network of 31 clients, with debts totalling £38,000 for which he charged 30 per cent interest.
Hamilton was also trading in illicit tobacco products which he had purchased abroad and did not carry obligatory government health warnings.
He was told by the judge at an earlier hearing that he had been motivated by greed.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We will continue to utilise the POCA legislation to ensure that criminals are stripped of their assets and do not benefit financially from their illegal activity.
“Loan sharks cause extreme misery for their victims, but there is help available and we would urge anyone with any information on illegal money lending activity to call our 24-hour helpline in confidence or contact us via Live Chat on our website.
“You are not in trouble if you have borrowed from a loan shark and we have provided specialist support to over 30,000 people affected by this crime.”
Paul Bayley, Cheshire East Council’s director of environment and neighbourhood services, said: “We will not tolerate loan sharks operating in our area and preying on vulnerable people. Our trading standards team works closely with the national illegal money lending unit and police to take robust action against loan sharks and will respond to any such report made by residents.
“We understand that some people may feel they have no other option but to go to a loan shark for money – but we would urge anyone in this position to speak to your local Citizens’ Advice service and get professional advice and support. If you know of any illegal money lending activity, I would urge you to report this to the IMLT.”
Community organisations, charities and groups are being encouraged to apply for funding for projects that help raise awareness of the dangers of using loan sharks.
Grants of up to £5,000 are being made available with joint bids between multiple agencies being considered. Projects must raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks, help to reduce crime and disorder and have a positive impact on local communities.
The funding comes from money seized from convicted loan sharks like Hamilton under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
Find out how to apply for funding at www.stoploansharks.co.uk/poca-funding/
If you or someone you know have fallen victim to a loan shark, you can contact the Illegal Money Lending Team 24/7 on 0300 555 2222 for anonymous information and in the strictest of confidence.
Live Chat is available between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Just click the chat icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to talk to a Stop Loan Sharks support worker.