A 51-year-old man and his 82-year-old mother who operated an illegal money lending operation in the Sunderland area have been handed suspended jail sentences.
Graeme Lamb, of Seafields, Seaburn, Sunderland, appeared before Newcastle Crown Court on December 20,2023. His mother Brenda Lamb, of Bromarsh Court, Sunderland, did not appear due to poor health.
Both pleaded guilty to illegal money lending and money laundering between October 2014 and November 2019.
Mr Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, told the court that the alert was first raised about the Lambs’ operation through an anonymous call to the confidential England Illegal Money Lending Team hotline.
The IMLT launched an investigation in partnership with Sunderland Trading Standards and Northumbria Police.
Mr Mortimer said investigators found evidence of 361 loans being issued to 78 people ranging in value from £50 to £1,500. During the period concerned, the Lambs received a total of £173,299.35 in payments and loans were issued with interest rates of between 40% and 69.5%.
He said Brenda Lamb had left the employment of a legitimate loan company and started her own business called Percuniam Solutions Ltd. When Graeme Lamb lost his job, he started working for his mother as a collector. Neither of them was authorised to conduct a credit business.
Sentencing, His Honour Judge Nathan Adams said the people who borrowed were left at risk as a result of the Lambs’ unregulated status.
He told Lamb: “There was a wilful blindness by both of you that there were requirements you should comply with.”
He said he accepted there were no threats involved and the interest rates were comparable to legitimate lenders.
Graeme Lamb was sentenced to a 12-month jail term suspended for 18 months for each offence to run concurrently. He was also ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work.
Brenda Lamb was given the same suspended jail sentence, but with no extra conditions due to her poor health.
A POCA timetable has been sought.
Speaking after the hearing, head of the IMLT Tony Quigley said: “Some illegal money lenders want to make borrowers believe they are offering a genuine service for the community, but the truth is that they prey on the vulnerable and are out to line their own pockets. All legitimate lenders have to have the correct authorisation and there are rules they must comply with that protect those who are borrowing.
“We work with our partners to make sure people are aware of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders and to raise awareness about safer ways to borrow, such as credit unions.”
Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Vibrant City, Councillor John Price, added: “There is no place in our communities for unscrupulous lenders like this who take advantage of people who may be struggling with their finances.
“I would encourage anyone with information about illegal money lending to contact the national Illegal Money Lending Team or the City Council and report what they know so it can be investigated.
“Also, if people have concerns about their finances then please seek out help and advice to see what support is available. Borrowing money from an illegal lender may seem easy, convenient or even tempting, but it can make financial problems much, much worse.”
Since 2004, the England 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 Stop Loan Sharks 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.