A LOAN shark who lent money to hard-up residents at interest rates of up to 14,000 per cent must pay back more than £100,000.

A judge at Teesside Crown Court declared that Paul Brown, who ran a large scale illegal money lending operation, had benefited from his criminal activities by the sum of £104,000.

Last night, MPs praised the work of the now-disbanded North-East Illegal Money Lending Team, which helped Durham Police to catch Brown - and warned that loan sharks are making a comeback in North-East communities since the body was replaced by a national organisation two years ago.

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Canadian-born Brown, who was in cahoots with his daughter Jennifer, was jailed for 18 months in 2011 after admitting nine specimen charges of illegal money lending between 2001 and 2009.

Now released from jail, he was present at the court for a proceeds of crime hearing.

Brown, 54, of Byland Close, St Helen Auckland, County Durham, was also involved in an illegal cigarette and counterfeit goods racket and was known to locals as 'Canadian Paul' or 'The Money Man'.

He did not contest the proceedings, however his daughter, who laundered £4,000 of Brown's money through her bank account, did.

Jennifer Brown, 26, of Taylor Square, Bishop Auckland, had previously been given a three month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months after admitting converting criminal property.

Judge Tony Briggs declared that her benefit sum be put at £20,746.

The Northern Echo understands that properties belonging to the pair will now be sold in order that the monies owed can be paid back.

This includes a house valued at £50,000 in Craddock Street, Spennymoor, belonging to Jennifer Brown.

The operation to trap Brown and his daughter and seize their criminal earnings involved the North-East Illegal Money Lending Team and Durham Police and began in June 2009 when officers raided Brown's home.

They found loan ledgers containing the names of 123 people, thousands of cigarettes on which £46,000 duty had been evaded and fake tracksuits and T-shirts.

Police said the illegal money lending involved payments from a few hundred pounds up to £2,000 with cash owing being collected from door-to-door.

When he was previously sentenced Brown, whose family moved from Canada when his daughter was aged 12, accepted lending £77,000 to 80 people.

The annual interest rate on one of the short term loans was 14,104 per cent.

Speaking after the proceeds of crime hearing, Nic Ashley, a financial investigator with Durham Police, said: "We need to send a message to the community that these people will be dealt with by the police and the courts if they engage in this kind of activity.

"A prison sentence can be seen by some criminals as one of the hazards of the job.

"Therefore at the same time we will continue our efforts to seize and take from these individuals the proceeds of their crime, which can hit them the hardest."

Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, said the result of the proceeds of crime hearing should reassure residents that loan sharks would be caught and urged those with money worries to contact registered credit unions.

She said: "Getting caught up with a loan shark can have serious consequences including crime and violence."

Ms Goodman also said the successful prosecution of the Browns proved why it was wrong to disband the North-East Illegal Money Lending Team.

She said: "The team was hugely successful in protecting our local communities from loan sharks who prey on the most vulnerable in our society."

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop echoed her comments, and said the loss of the North-East Illegal Money Lending Team had had an adverse impact on communities.

He said: "The centralised team is more responsive, not necessarily preventative. Previously, you had officers who knew who the bad guys were.

"Illegal lenders are starting to creep back into housing estates in my constituency, manipulating people."

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