A loan shark pensioner who ran an illegal lending operation in Staffordshire, making thousands of pounds from hundreds of loans, has been jailed for 32 months.
Stafford Crown Court heard Robert Norman Phillips, aged 75, lent more than £370,000 over 16 years and took repayments of more than £570,000.
The court heard many of his victims were women who said he had made repeated lewd and inappropriate comments when he collected cash and even suggested ‘payment in kind’ if they were struggling to pay.
Phillips, of Creswell Farm Drive, Stafford, admitted two charges of money lending between November 2006 and November 2022 as well as a charge of concealing the proceeds of his crime. He was sentenced to 10 months for each of the money lending offences and 32 months for the third offence, all to run concurrently.
The case was prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in partnership with Staffordshire County Council Trading Standards and Staffordshire Police.
Mr Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, said a report was made to the IMLT hotline in March 2022 alleging that Phillips was operating an unlicensed money lending business.
Initial inquiries showed little evidence as Phillips was dealing mostly in cash, but in November 2022, investigators from the IMLT together with Staffordshire Police officers executed a warrant at his address and found items which clearly related to a loans business.
They included a lever arch folder and notebook containing names, dates and amounts and duplicate books containing receipts for loans. A cash box containing around £10,000 was also found.
Investigators found Phillips had made his first loan on November 6, 2006, with the most recent being in November 2022. Between those dates he issued at least 966 loans to 147 different borrowers.
The total capital advanced was at least £372,000 and he collected repayments of over £570,000, charging charged either 60% or 70% interest.
Mr Mortimer told the court that several female victims had reported Phillips making lewd comments and acting inappropriately when he called for payment, and he had suggested ‘payment in kind’.
One said he would call early in the morning to catch her in her nightwear. She took to leaving money under the doormat to avoid having contact with him.
Another said he made sleazy comments, making her feel uncomfortable and one said he made sexual comments to her while her children were present. Another said he asked her to wear ‘sexy underwear’.
The court heard Phillips was relentless in his pursuit pf payments, with one borrower saying he would knock on a door for 20 minutes if there was no answer and he continued to call even during Covid 19 when the victims could not see members of their own families.
Passing sentence, Recorder James Bide-Thomas said he had taken into account Phillips’ age, his previous good character and the fact that he suffered for a number of health problems.
He also said he had taken into consideration the fact that Phillips was the sole carer for his wife who was also in poor health.
However he said the offences were so serious that there was no way he could not impose a custodial sentence.
A POCA timetable has been sought.
Speaking after the hearing, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Tony Quigley, said: “Some of the borrowers in this case had known this lender for many years, and many would have considered him a family friend.
“This case demonstrates that illegal money lenders come from all walks of life and shows some of the shocking tactics they will use to force people to make repayments they may not be able to afford.
“This sentence shows just how serious a crime this is and we will continue to work with our partners to rid our communities of these criminals. We would urge anyone who thinks they may have been the victim of an illegal lender to get in touch with us in confidence.”
Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council, added: “Loan-sharking is a terrible crime that affects many of our communities and we work closely with our partners to tackle it.
“Loan sharks will prey on vulnerable residents and often intimidate, manipulate, and trap victims in a cycle of fear and violence. They may seem friendly at first but borrowing from them can have serious consequences. We’re pleased with today’s sentence which should act as a reminder that firm action will be taken against those who do it.”
Since its launch in 2004, the IMLT has supported over 31,000 people and written off over £91 million of illegal debt. Over 410 prosecutions have been secured for illegal money lending and related activity, which has resulted in custodial sentences adding up to 593 years.
Anyone who believes they, or someone they know, is a victim of a loan shark, is urged to contact the IMLT in confidence. They can call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222; text a report to 07860022116; email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a private message on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject. They can also visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk, where there is a live chat facility.