No jail for Black Country loan shark who made £6,000-a-month

A loan shark who illegally pocketed £340,000 over six years from vulnerable victims through a money-lending racket has been spared time behind bars.

Investigators found £18,240 in a safe at John Guest's home
Investigators found £18,240 in a safe at John Guest's home

John Guest had been making up to £6,000-a-month from the criminal enterprise, a court heard.

However the 62-year-old from Dudley was told that the courts aimed to recoup the money through a Proceeds of Crime hearing.

Judge Dean Kershaw warned him: "What you have gained will be taken from you."

Guest had worked for a legitimate doorstep loan company for 20 years before deciding to go it alone with an unlicensed business, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.

The defendant, from Redwood Avenue, Gornal, who was of previous good character, built up good relationships with his victims, regarding them as "friends".

But he took advantage of his reputation of being a legitimate operator to identify previous customers for his own financial gain, said Joseph Millington, prosecuting.

The unlicensed loans activity took place between July 2012 and August last year, with Guest using some of the old company payment books to provide loans to customers.

The court heard how Guest issued more than 270 loans ranging from £100 to £3,000 to 58 borrowers, charging them interest of between 50 – 100 per cent and consistently topping up loans to increase his profit margins. The majority were paying off two or more loans at the same time.

In April last year, the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) received a report that Guest had been providing illegal loans in the guise of an authorised loan company to make his business look legitimate.

£18,240 found in a safe

Investigators executed a warrant at his home in August and recovered customer agreements and payments books containing details of loans issued and collections. A total of £18,240 was also found inside a safe.

Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said after the hearing: “John Guest abused his position of trust with borrowers as well as the legitimate companies he had previously engaged with.

“He was well aware of the consequences of engaging in money lending activities without authorisation but continued to parallel lend on his own accord. We hope this sentence serves as a deterrent to those involved in this type of activity."

Guest admitted two charges of unlawful money lending, another of concealing or removing criminal property and also possessing criminal property. He was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to do 80 hours unpaid work.

Passing sentence, Judge Kershaw added: “Money lending has to be highly regulated because if it isn’t people suffer terribly. You had a large customer base and manipulated paperwork.

"The cash found at your premises was substantial which was indicative to the nature of the business and profit you was earning.

"Your customers had multiple loans which is a serious consequence for people as they become trapped in money lending debt.”

Councillor Laura Taylor, cabinet member for trading standards, said: “We’re really glad to see that this case has come to court and applaud the work of the illegal money lending team whom we were pleased to assist.

"Loan sharks are contemptuous individuals, preying on the most vulnerable people.”

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a loan shark is urged to contact the confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222.

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