An Exeter loan shark who charged excessive interest rates has been given a suspended jail sentence.
Robert Ferguson, aged 69, of Exe Street, Exeter, who admitted running an unlawful money lending business from his home, received a 30-week jail sentence, suspended for two years, by a judge sitting at Exeter Crown Court.
Ferguson, who was sentenced on November 4, 2020, was also ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid community work and pay £300 costs.
The court heard how one victim was forced to give back more than four times the original debt, paying the loan shark £6,797 after borrowing £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.”
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 how Ferguson ran 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 different 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 the loan shark £6,797 on credit totaling £1,575.
- Report illegal money lending to the IMLT on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous. For more information on how to stop loan sharks, see here.