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Leeds Loan Sharks Sentenced to Six Months Imprisonment

Two brothers who operated as loan sharks have each been sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for two years following a hearing at Leeds Crown Court.

Thomas Joseph O’ Donoghue (aged 56) of Harehills Lane, Leeds pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to offences of illegal money lending and money laundering. He was charged along with his brother Dennis O’ Donoghue (aged 62) of Fairfield Terrace, Leeds who also pleaded guilty at a separate earlier hearing.

The investigation and prosecution was led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

Thomas O’Donoghue known as ‘Joe’ charged exorbitant amounts of interest on top of the loan, trapping borrowers into spiralling debt.

One victim borrowed £100 and was told to pay back £200 at £20 per week. If he ever missed a payment the balance would increase by £100.The debt then grew to the point where the victim was paying between £100 and £150 each week.

Victims were left in desperate situations, borrowing money from family and claiming food vouchers. Thomas O’Donoghue, who was unemployed and in receipt of benefits, still took the vouchers in lieu of payment. Dennis is also in receipt of benefits.

Thomas O’Donoghue threatened a victim to ensure they kept paying, raising his fists and saying “I haven’t used these in a long time, but I will.” He told him he would damage his windows and use ex-boxers to collect payment.

When Thomas collected money from one victim he was told that his brother Dennis was also involved in the business.

Dennis O’Donoghue also loaned money to, and collected money from victims, either alone or with his brother.

When investigators from the England Illegal Money Lending Team executed a warrant at Thomas O’Donoghue’s previous address in Swinnow in June this year they found documentation which proved he had been involved the illegal business since October 2010.

It appears that the business which the O’Donoghue’s were involved gave 138 loans to 57 borrowers, loaning out more than £20,000.

Upon sentencing His Honour JudgeKearlsaid that the O’Donoghue’s had offered money to the most vulnerable people who were least able to pay. The amounts owed escalated as interest and penalties were high.

A financial investigation under proceeds of crime legislation is ongoing.

David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards said “Loan sharks can have a horrendous impact on individuals and communities, leaving them in deep financial difficulty, repaying far and above the amounts borrowed because they are in fear.

We would urge people to always steer clear of loan sharks- they are not offering a community service. We would also urge those who have been a victim of this crime to come forward. The England Illegal Money Lending Team are cracking down on this crime- call 0300 555 2222 to speak to them in confidence.”

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “We are continuing to crack down on illegal money lending and bring offenders like O’Donoghue to justice. It’s important to remember that loan sharks are only motivated by greed so should never be used. If you have been a victim of this crime report it in confidence so we can take action. “

Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured 297 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading more than 188 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 victims.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222

Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003

E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

***ENDS***

For updates on the campaign visit www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject of twitter: @loansharknews

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222

Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003

Email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

ENDS

For more information contact Jenny Mainwaring, Illegal Money Lending Team Operations Manager, on 0121 693 1030 or 07818 510673 or email jenny.mainwaring@birmingham.gov.uk. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail nationaltradingstandards@grayling.com.

Notes to Editors

The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.

The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.

The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales. The National Trading Standards Board has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 310 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 200 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £55 million worth of illegal debt and helped nearly 24,000 people.

The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.