A loan shark, who ran an illegal money lending business for nine years, has been ordered to pay back £315,000 in proceeds of crime – or face more time in jail.
Paul Stretch, aged 58, of Twickenham Road in Newton Abbot, was jailed for two years and three months on 18 August 2017 after pleading guilty to illegal money lending and money laundering.
The defendant preyed on vulnerable people in Torquay and Newton Abbot and fleeced his victims out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
At a confiscation hearing at Exeter Crown Court today (12 April), the loan shark was ordered to pay £315,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002). He has three months to pay the full amount or he will face an extra three years in prison.
In addition to his confiscation order, Stretch was also told to pay £11,545 in prosecution costs.
The case was prosecuted by the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) who work in partnership with the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service and Devon and Cornwall Police.
When IMLT officers executed a warrant at Stretch’s home address on 26 January 2016, documentation containing borrowers’ details, electronic devices and £3,070 in cash was seized.
At an earlier hearing, Prosecutor Simon Mortimer told the court that Paul Stretch had been providing personal loans to people in and around the Torbay area of Devon and received hundreds of thousands of pounds in loan repayments.
The defendant had previously worked as a self-employed agent for a legitimate loans company between October 2002 and April 2014.
During this period, Stretch was made aware by his employer that he was not allowed to ‘parallel lend’ or conduct consumer credit activities personally without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Financial Investigators from the IMLT traced £350,000 moving through accounts belonging to Stretch and his wife over the nine years.
The loan records seized from Stretch’s home revealed he was targeting people he was familiar with through his employment with local, legitimate, loan companies.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:“The Proceeds of Crime Act ensures that loan sharks like Paul Stretch are not profiting from deceitful illegal money lending activity.”
“Today’s hearing sends out a clear message that loan sharks who are caught flouting the law will be prosecuted and stripped of their available assets. This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated in Devon and we will continue to work with the council and police to crack down on loan sharks.”
Stephen Gardiner, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service’s Interventions Manager, said: “Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service welcome this result and we will continue to work in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to tackle loan sharks and make residents aware of alternative money lending opportunities that may be available.”