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Loan shark who targeted vulnerable on social media jailed for 16 months

A loan shark who targeted vulnerable borrowers using social media and then failed to turn up to court to face justice after being arrested has been jailed for 16 months.

Anesu Blessing Samuriwo, aged 28, was first arrested in 2020, following an investigation by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).

He was arrested alongside Rovin Mavunga, 27, who was jailed for 16 months in 2021 after admitted two offences relating to illegal money lending.

Samuriwo initially denied the charges and later indicated he would change his plea but failed to turn up to court when required. He was arrested in May and sentenced to eight weeks in custody for the bail act offence.

He appeared at Sheffield Crown Court via video link yesterday (JUNE 27) to be sentenced after admitting acting as an illegal money lender jointly with Mavunga.

Judge Megan Rhys told him only a custodial sentence was appropriate for the offence.

“This was an organised, sophisticated, and profitable illegal business,” she said. “The sort of people who approached you were people who were vulnerable. People who needed some money, not large amounts to fund extravagant lifestyles but people who needed to meet the basic necessities in life.

“You charged them extortionate rates of interest and late payment penalties and used threats and intimidation when they were unable to pay.”

Mr Simon Mortimer, prosecuting on behalf of the IMLT, told the court heard Mavunga began his loan shark operation in 2018 and used social media apps like Snapchat to find customers. He would go on to threaten them if they couldn’t pay. One borrower was told his house would be burned down and he would be killed.

Mavunga was joined by Samuriwo from around December 2018 until their arrest in 2020. The pair offered short term, high interest loans.

In March 2020, officers from the IMLT searched Mavunga’s home in Union Street, Doncaster, and Samuriwo’s in Triumph Road, Hinckley, Leicestershire.

Phone records showed banking transactions between Samuriwo and Mavunga as well as other individuals with messages that clearly indicated the provision of loans.

It was estimated there were around 130 borrowers between 2018 and January 2020. Loans totalling around £120,000 were issued with a typical rate of interest at just under 100 per cent. The loans varied in size from £50 to £100.

Mr Mortimer said after Mavunga’s arrest the number of transactions between loan customers and Samuriwo increased significantly, showing he continued the enterprise. He said Mavunga introduced one customer to a man called ‘Arnold’, a name by which Samuriwo is known, who made threats on Snapchat to burn his house down and kill him and then demanded £7,000, comprising the original loan amount plus £4,000 interest.

Mr Chris Aspinall, defending, said Samuriwo’s involvement in this activity was significantly less than his co-accused. He said the operation was ‘quite obviously run mainly by Mavunga’.

Mr Aspinall said Samuriwo was of previous good character and worked as an engineer. He had a partner and a four-month-old child and they now had a home in Milton Keynes.

Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “We’re pleased to see another illegal lender being given a significant custodial sentence today. This shows how seriously the courts take this offence.

“This lender used social media to target borrowers who were financially vulnerable, but then tried to evade justice by not turning up to court.

“Our officers are relentless when it comes to ensuring these lenders do face the consequences of their actions. We urge anyone who thinks they might have been targeted by an illegal lender in this way to contact us.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the IMLT. Since its launch, the team has supported over 31,700 people and written off over £91.3 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 420 prosecutions for illegal money lending, leading to over 600 years in jail.

Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending should call the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.