An elderly couple who ran an illegal money lending business have been ordered to repay tens of thousands of pounds of their ill-gotten gains or face jail time.
Alan and Joyce Fromson, both of Green Leas, Carlton, in Stockton, were handed a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for two years in November 2020.
They had previously pleaded guilty to charges of unlawfully engaging in the activities of a consumer credit business for which a licence was required and money lending when not authorised.
At a confiscation hearing on Wednesday, January 19, at Teesside Crown Court, the couple were ordered to repay £136,623 in the next three months, or they will be jailed for 18 months.
At a previous hearing, prosecutor Simon Mortimer told the court that the pair had worked for the loan firm Provident and decided to establish their own lending company called JFA Personal Credit in 1997.
Alan Fromson, 81, and Joyce Fromson, 80, ran a legitimate business until 2007 when they failed to renew their licence to loan money to customers. They continued running their business illegally and did not pay tax on their earnings.
Specialist officers from the IMLT executed a warrant at the pair’s Carlton home in October 2019, where evidence and records were seized.
When interviewed Alan told the investigators “we could get away with it so we did” and “we have had a very, very good living out of it”.
In the interview, the couple explained that they had copied the Provident model, with Alan operating in the Thornaby area and Joyce in Stillington and Carlton.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We hope that this result sends out a strong message to anyone lending money illegally that crime does not pay and offers reassurance to residents that we take this type of criminality extremely seriously.
“Under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) legislation, we have the power to strip illegal lenders of their ill-gotten gains and use the money to fund projects and initiatives to make communities safer.
“We want people to be aware that there is a local, ethical, affordable alternative to borrowing from loan sharks. Tees Credit Union provides secure savings and affordable loans to people who live or work in County Durham.
“We also urge people to check their lender is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority by searching the register online.
“If you or someone you know has been affected by illegal money lending, please get in touch as we’re here to help and keep you safe.”
Residents are urged never to use loan sharks who may refuse to tell the borrower how much they owe, how long they will be repaying for or the interest rate they will be charged.
Loan sharks rarely give paperwork and loans will just keep growing even if the borrower is making regular payments. These criminals may appear friendly at first but can resort to violence, threats and intimidation if payments are not met.
Anyone who has concerns about loan sharks can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24 Hour Helpline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.