Wingerworth man punished for illegal money lending

The defendant amassed a large customer base of around 170 customers, charging an average interest of 40 per cent on each loan.
The defendant amassed a large customer base of around 170 customers, charging an average interest of 40 per cent on each loan.

A Wingerworth man has been punished for illegal money lending and money laundering.

Andrew Gent, 49, of Mill Lane, was handed eight months of custody, suspended for 18 months, a six-month curfew and 150 hours' unpaid work at Derby Crown Court on Monday.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team brought the prosecution against the illegal money lender after officers visited the defendant's home and business addresses in November, 2016, and found various loan agreements, diaries containing details of loans made, collection sheets and other loan documentation.

On behalf of the prosecution, Simon Mortimer told the court that Gent had been running an illegal money lending business from June 1, 2015, until November 17, 2017.

Mr Mortimer added that although Gent had held a licence to conduct credit-related activity from December, 2010, to May, 2015, the defendant failed to apply for interim permission during the change over from the Office of Fair Trading to The Financial Conduct Authority.

The prosecution went on to demonstrate that Gent had issued approximately 1,500 loans totalling £211,000 and received £300,000 in loan repayments.

He amassed a large customer base of around 170 customers, charging an average interest of 40 per cent on each loan.

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: "This result sends a clear message that criminals who are caught operating an illegal money lending business will be pursued and prosecuted by us.

"Illegal money lending will not be tolerated in Chesterfield and we will continue to work with local trading standards and the police to combat this crime.

"We urge anyone affected by this issue to contact us in confidence on 0300 555 2222. All calls are strictly confidential and you can remain anonymous."

An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt.

People are urged never to use unlicensed lenders who:

► Refuse to tell the borrower how much they owe, how long they will be repaying for or the APR rate

► Do not give paperwork

► Add additional charges or increase the debt

► Take items such as passports, bank cards or driving licences as security

► Appear friendly at first, but resort to violent, threatening or extreme methods when payments are not met

Councillor Carol Hart, Derbyshire County Council cabinet member for health and communities, said: "Our trading standards officers were involved in this case and we welcome the outcome as it sends out a strong message that activity like this is extremely serious and will be prosecuted.

"Illegal money lenders prey on vulnerable people, often when they are at their most desperate, in many cases causing them to spiral into even more debt.

"I would urge people who do find themselves getting in to difficulties financially to avoid illegal money lenders at all costs and speak to Citizens Advice or the National Debtline to get proper, sound advice. There is also lots of advice on the council's website."