A HUSBAND and wife from Slough, who ran a £400,000 illegal money lending business and preyed on vulnerable members of the Filipino community, have been sentenced.
Jesus Gutierrez (aged 57) and Maria Gutierrez (aged 55) of Borderside, Slough received suspended prison sentences and community payback after pleading guilty to illegal money lending.
Appearing at Reading Crown Court on Friday (6 April 2018), Jesus Gutierrez was sentenced to 8 months, suspended for 18 months and was ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.
Maria Gutierrez was sentenced to 6 months, suspended for 18 months and was ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work.
The case was prosecuted by the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) who work in partnership with Slough Borough Council Trading Standards and Thames Valley Police.
On 9 November 2016, officers from the IMLT executed a warrant at the defendants’ home address and seized documentation evidencing loan activity.
On behalf of the prosecution, Simon Mortimer told the court that the couple had been running an illegal money lending business from 1 February 2013 to their arrest date on 9 November 2016 without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
During this period, the defendants issued loans totalling £410,623, to which they applied interest payments of £219,510.
The prosecution added that the Gutierrez’s issued loans ranging from £500 to £20,000. The standard loan was for a period of 10 months and a flat rate of 50% interest was charged. They had issued over 150 loans to over 50 customers.
One victim, whose mother had died in December 2014 in the Philippines, borrowed £2,000 from Jesus Gutierrez to pay for funeral costs. The victim was charged 50% interest on his loan and was forced to repay £3,000 over 10 months.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“This result sends a clear message that loan sharks, who are caught flouting the law by conducting consumer credit activities without permission, will be pursued and prosecuted by the IMLT.
“Loan sharking will not be tolerated in Berkshire and we will continue to work with council and police partners to combat this crime.
“We urge victims to come forward and report loan sharks in confidence on 0300 555 2222. All calls are strictly confidential and you will be offered welfare support while we build a case against the loan shark. For more information, please visit www.stoploansharks.uk”
Angela Satterly, Compliance Team leader at Slough Trading Standards, said:
“I am pleased with the outcome of this case and hope it sends a message to other loan sharks that this activity will not be tolerated and you will be prosecuted.
“Loan sharks are essentially people who prey on vulnerable people in a desperate financial situation, causing them to spiral into even more debt – making their situation even more desperate.
“My advice to residents who find themselves in a difficult financial situation to steer clear of loan sharks, you will only run into more trouble.
“Before taking on more debt, speak to Citizens Advice or the National Debtline in the first instance, who can advise you on the best way forward.”
Slough Trading Standards works in partnership with the IMLT and Berkshire Credit Union which is a safe and smarter alternative way of borrowing money for the consumer.
Consumers can contact the Berkshire Credit Union on 0118 9585803 or visit their website: www.cslberks.org.uk
A POCA timetable has been set.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 382 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 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