An Exeter man who illegally lent money to vulnerable people has been given a suspended sentence.
Robert Ferguson, 69, of Exe Street, Exeter, admitted running an unlawful money lending business and was jailed for 30 weeks, suspended for two years at Exeter Crown Court on November 4.
He was also ordered to do 180 hours unpaid community work and pay £300 costs.
The case was prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in partnership with Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards and Devon and Cornwall Police.
Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, told the court that Ferguson had been running his illegal money lending scheme between April 2014 and November 2019.
He charged exorbitant rates of interest to friends or people he met in pubs and received tens of thousands of pounds in loan repayments, which was paid directly into his bank by more than 20 people.
His customers in Exeter, Devon called him ‘The Bank of Fergs’.
The court heard how some victims were given details of Ferguson’s bank account, so they could pay him as soon as they got their benefit payments.
One victim met Ferguson in a pub and took out loans to pay for general living expenses such as food and rent.
He ended up repaying £6,797 on loans totalling £1,575.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “This is a great result for the victims who came forward and it should give communities in Devon the confidence that we will help and continue to bring these loan sharks to justice.
“We would encourage anyone with information about illegal money lending activity to report it via the confidential hotline, so we can take action and remove unscrupulous lenders from our communities.”
Paul Thomas, Head of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service said: “Loan sharks can make people’s lives a misery, preying on the vulnerable and trapping people into a spiral of debt, leaving their victims struggling to pay for basics.
“Our team are determined to make sure these offenders are caught and will continue to protect our residents.”
To report a loan shark, call the 24-hour helpline on 0300 555 2222, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete a form online to request support at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.