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Thursday, 29 August 2019

Money lender and tobacco cheat jailed after joint council investigation


Cheshire East Council’s trading standards team, working in partnership, has helped to secure another successful prosecution against an illegal money lender who was also trading in illicit tobacco products.

Working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team and Cheshire police, trading standards officers have halted the black market operations of Vincent Hamilton who was given a jail sentence when he appeared at Chester Crown Court for sentencing on Friday (23 August).

Hamilton (56), of Badger Avenue, Crewe, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to several offences, including illegal money lending, money laundering and selling illegal tobacco products he had purchased abroad and which did not carry obligatory government health warnings.

He received a 30 months prison sentence for illegal money lending and fraudulent trading.

Councillor Mick Warren, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for communities, said: “I would like to thank our trading standards team for their hard work with the illegal money lending team and Cheshire police, in bringing about this successful prosecution.

“Loan sharks cause misery in our communities and their actions must be stamped out. They prey on the vulnerable who then accumulate large debts which they cannot repay. This can result in devastating consequences for the individual and their family.

“Peddling illicit, cheap tobacco products, a practice often linked to organised crime can also have a serious emotional and health impact on the lives of those people who may be trying to give up smoking altogether. It is also a fraud on the taxpayer.

“Cheshire East Council is an enforcing authority and we will continue to work hard to crack down on these unlawful practices.”

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks will not be tolerated. They cause nothing but misery for their victims, leaving borrowers trapped in spiralling debt.

“We would urge anyone who has been a victim of this crime, or who may know someone who has, to speak out so that we can take action.”

During a search of Hamilton’s home in November 2018, officers found illicit cigarettes and tobacco with a retail value of £8,116 and cash totalling £7,580. Hamilton, who had been lending money illegally since 2012, had built up a network of 31 clients, with debts totalling £38,000 for which he charged 30 per cent interest.

He was told by the judge that he had been motivated by greed.

If you know of an illegal money lending activity then call the 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or send a text to 07860 022116. You can also visit: www.stoploansharks.co.uk

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