A 53-year-old man who illegally lent money and then intimidated and even attacked borrowers when they couldn’t make repayments has been jailed for 28 months.
Alvin Hutchinson, of Telford, forced one borrower to buy a 65in TV on credit, which he then used, leaving the customer struggling to make the repayments.
Hutchinson, of Hartley Close, The Rock, admitted charges of illegal money lending and concealing the proceeds of crime and appeared at Shrewsbury Crown Court on December 22, 2023, for sentence.
The case was prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in partnership with Telford Trading Standards and West Mercia Police.
Mr Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, told the court Hutchinson ran his lending operation between January 2015 and May 2019, but did not have the necessary authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
He said regulation ensures borrowers are legally protected and without it they are left at the ‘behest of the illegal money lender’.
Investigators from the IMLT together with officers from West Mercia Police carried out a search warrant at Hutchinson’s home on May 21, 2019 and seized electronic equipment.
Investigations found deposits of £92,862.93 were made into accounts registered to Hutchinson and other family members, whose accounts he was using to process payments.
Of that sum, £48,028.93 was made through cash credits, but the rest was from loan customers transferring payments into the accounts by bank transfer.
Mobile phone records revealed extensive contacts between Hutchinson and customers.
Mr Mortimer said one borrower, who Hutchinson met in Wolverhampton, took loans of between £100 and £200 and was charged 40 per cent interest, but if the capital wasn’t paid off after a week, another 40 per cent was added. That borrower was threatened and intimated.
Another customer also took small loans and estimated at one point he owed £3,000 – having only borrowed between £500 to £600. He said Hutchinson would also become aggressive when he struggled to meet payments and on one occasion punched him, leaving him with a bloody nose.
Mr Simon Warlock, defending, said Hutchinson worked as a second-hand car salesman and often dealt in cash, regularly carrying large amounts with him.
His way of doing business was to attend auctions to buy cars, do them up and sell them on.
He said Hutchinson sometimes used bank accounts of family members to deposit money when it was more convenient that accessing his own account.
Mr Warlock said Hutchinson often came across people who knew he had cash on him and would sometimes ask for a loan. “The defendant simply says he would lend to people who could not get money elsewhere,” he said.
Mr Warlock said that by charging interest Hutchinson was committing a criminal act. He added Hutchinson disputed the claims of violence but accepted he did put pressure on people to pay.
In passing sentence, Recorder Barker added: “Those who find themselves in positions where they have to take out loans need to be protected and it’s this that makes the activity of illegal money lending so grave.
“This makes them vulnerable to people like you, people who are prepared to take advantage of that vulnerability and their situation to make money.
“You operated this business under the radar of the authorities and benefited to the tune of at least £92,000.”
She added: “It seems to me that in what can only be described as an act of cruelty you forced them to get further into debt by buying goods that they were never going to possess.
“You were taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable and there was little they could do to get out of your grasp . . . they were vulnerable and had to turn to a loan shark like you.”
Hutchinson was sentenced to 12 months for illegal money lending and 16 months for concealing the proceeds of crime, to run consecutively.
A POCA timetable was set.
Speaking after the hearing, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Tony Quigley, said: “This sentence sends a message that illegal money lending will not be tolerated in our communities. Illegal money lending destroys people’s lives, and we will continue our fight to stop these unscrupulous criminals.
“We would like to thank the borrowers for coming forward and we would urge anyone who thinks they have been targeted in this way to contact us in confidence for help and support.”
Councillor Richard Overton, deputy leader of Telford & Wrekin Council and cabinet member for homes and enforcement, added: “Loan sharks pose a dangerous threat to our communities, particularly at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is impacting on people in so many devastating ways.
“Our priority is to care for and protect our residents and we work together with our partners including the England Illegal Money Lending team to ensure the public we serve is not exposed to these crimes.”
Since 2004, the IMLT has supported over 31,000 people and written off over £91 million of illegal debt. Over 414 prosecutions have been secured for illegal money lending and related activity, which has resulted in custodial sentences adding up to 596 years.
Anyone who thinks they may have been the victim of an illegal money lender, or knows someone who has, should call the IMLT 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222, text 078600 22116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org