By Philip Dewey
Tabitha Richardson from Newport threatened her customers by sending them threatening texts when they had received repayments.
One elderly woman illegally acting as a ‘loan shark’ charged up to 40% of interest on money she loaned to others and threatened them to “come looking for them”. The woman left a couple “trapped in debt”, and forced them to pay more each month than they earn.
Tabitha Richardson of Newport was visited last August by officers with the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit. They had received information on her illegal practices. Formerly, she had been granted a licence that allowed her legally to loan money. However, this license had lapsed. She continued her illegal practices despite knowing it.
In a Friday sentencing session at Cardiff Crown Court it was revealed that Richardson had gone through her house on Nash Road, and found a secure in the garage. Her initial claim was that she lost her key and it held property deeds. But a local locksmith broke open the safe to find that PS6,550 was inside.
Other items seized included bankbooks, loans books, filing cabinets, and other bits of paper. Alex Greenwood examined the financial circumstances of Richardson’s clients who had borrowed from her. Richardson had loaned a total sum of PS126,000, while not licensed.
Richardson texted a couple when they missed a payment. These people were receiving health benefits but were not able to work. Their loan repayments reached the point that they were paying more than their monthly earnings, which was PS1,400.
Richardson, when the victims missed their payments, sent a text to them saying “Ring me up, I know you can be found” and that “You’ve got to tell me what is going on and I will come look for you.” The victim paid interest on a loan of PS31,000 to the extent that it was worth around PS12400. Richardson texted the victim’s female counterpart, saying “I am not interested in coming to find you. However, your actions are leaving me with no option”. Please don’t fall out. We know each other very well. She has borrowed about PS 46,300.
She would come to his home every other week to collect payments. Richardson believed he was an employee of a registered business and took out between two and three loans a month. He paid PS765 as interest for a PS1,850 credit.
Richardson took out loans for his daughter as far back in the 90s. The interest rate was 40%. The defendant also borrowed money from the wife’s husband, and her brother in law. Richardson had a bag at her house with PS150 inside and the victim’s name written on it. Although the defendant had no license, the victim was able to repay PS3,200 from an overall loan of PS8,500.
Richardson also began lending money to another victim, who was struggling with mortgage repayments. According to him, the defendant had worked at a “Harity” company. However, the company did not exist when the investigation was conducted. Mr Greenwood claimed that one victim paid PS600 interest for the loan of PS2,000 and a second victim paid PS240 interest for the loan of PS600.
Richardson confessed to illegal lending of money in 2016 when she was interviewed by police under caution. She stated that many people had approached her for money loans, and they paid in cash.
She later admitted that she had engaged in activity which required a license when she wasn’t a valid licence holder, carried out a controlled activity without being an authorized or exempt person as well as money laundering. According to the court, she has no prior convictions.
Andrew Kendal stressed that, while his client did “undoubtedly” make money by lending out her money, she had done so primarily to “help” people who were borrowing from her. Barrister Karen Kendal claimed that her lending to people was done “without malice or greed” and with the intention of helping them.
Richardson was spared an immediate jail sentence, said Recorder Benjamin Blakemore at sentencing. “By a whisker”, he told Richardson. The Recorder said Richardson had “run roughshod” of regulations and laws to protect the borrowers. Blakemore described messages sent to her victims by “threatening, menacing and to a certain degree”.
The judge continued: “Your interest fees kept them trapped in a “cycle of debt” and they were being exploited for profit. You said probation that you were helping people out, and weren’t out for profit. The interest was set at a rate that did not make sense if the people you set it against were going to have trouble paying their debts. It was greed that motivated me to reject the idea.
Richardson was given a 24 month sentence, which is suspended for two more years. She was warned that if committed another infraction within the suspended period she would go to jail.
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