A LOAN shark, who preyed on vulnerable taxi drivers in Plymouth, has been ordered to pay back thousands of pounds in proceeds of crime at Plymouth Crown Court today (13 October 2017).
Mark Constantine, 57, of Higher Stert Terrace in Prince Rock, received a 12 month suspended prison sentence at an earlier hearing (16 May 2016) after pleading guilty to offences of illegal money lending.
A confiscation order of £20,000 was made, which Constantine must pay within 3 months otherwise he risks facing a default prison sentence of 9 months.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) brought the case against Mark Constantine after officers, working with Plymouth City Council Trading Standards and Devon and Cornwall Police executed a warrant at the defendant’s home address on 13 May 2015 and found documentation evidencing loan activity.
At an earlier hearing, Prosecutor Stuart Jessop told the court that Constantine had a Consumer Credit Licence but failed to renew it when it lapsed in 2011.
After his licence lapsed, Constantine continued to sell cars on hire purchase and give out cash loans to vulnerable taxi and private hire drivers.
The court heard how Constantine was lending to fifty clients, mainly taxi drivers, who were looking for finance to purchase vehicles.
The loan shark would take some form of security from most of his victims, often keeping the spare key and the registration document of the vehicle he sold to them until the final payment could be made.
Constantine’s victims were expected to pay £100 a week; this was either collected from their home or paid directly into the loan shark’s bank account.
A financial analysis led by the IMLT revealed that Constantine was charging high levels of interest on his car loans. One victim, who was given support by the team, said they were charged £5,000 interest for a £3,000 loan.
When passing sentence, Judge Lawrie QC told Mark Constantine:
“You were extending loans to people who were vulnerable, they need protecting. You made money out of people’s desperation and there was a coercive element.”
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“The Proceeds of Crime Act ensures that loan sharks like Mark Constantine are not profiting from deceitful illegal money lending activity.
“Today’s hearing sends out a clear message that loan sharks who are caught flouting the law will be prosecuted and stripped of their available assets. This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated in Plymouth and we will continue to work with the police and local authority to crack down on loan sharks.
“If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, please call the IMLT on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk.”
Councillor Dave Downie, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities, said:
“We welcome this conviction and confiscation order, which sends a clear message that we will not tolerate loan sharks here in Plymouth.
“We work closely with the National Illegal Money Lending Team to raise awareness of the dangers that people face from loan sharks, such as high interest rates and crippling debt.
“Instead of resorting to loan sharks we recommend people to look to more ethical, low interest ways of borrowing and lending, such as the City of Plymouth Credit Union, or to access household goods through the Fair For You scheme.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 328 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £72.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 27,000 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
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject