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No let-up in fight to tackle illegal money lenders
THERE has been no let-up in efforts to tackle loan sharks operating in the North-East, it was claimed today.
The work of the now-disbanded North-East Illegal Money Lending Team was praised last week after investigators helped police catch loan shark Paul Brown.
However, the North-East-based team was wound up two years ago and replaced by a national group.
At a proceeds of crime hearing, a judge at Teesside Crown Court declared Brown, 54, of Byland Close, St Helen Auckland, had benefited from his illegal activities to the tune of £104,000 by charging interest rates of up to 14,000 per cent.
Judge Tony Briggs also found Brown's daughter Jennifer, 26, of Taylor Square, Bishop Auckland had benefited by more than £20,000.
Specialist investigators are now part of the England Illegal Money Lending Team and amid reports that loan sharks have again started to target hard-up folk in the region, fears were voiced that it had been a wrong move to disband the locally-based team.
However, a spokeswoman for the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We still have the same number of investigators and Leads In Awareness, Intelligence, Support and Education (LIAISE) officers based specifically in the North-East as the previous regional team.”
She said most of the officers currently operating in the North-East previously worked for the regional team but are now supported by a larger group across the country.
“The only reduction has been in building costs as we've moved to a more agile working system, where are staff are either out in the field, conducting inquiries into suspected loan sharks or raising awareness of the issue,” she added.
“We recently secured a successful prosecution in North Tyneside, have a case in Northumberland which is going through the courts and have recently made arrests in Middlesbrough for which enquires are on-going.
“There are several other cases under investigation.”
Earlier this month, the West Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Trust received £5,000 recovered from illegal money lenders to honour its work raising awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.
And in January, the team joined forces with Darlington Borough Council Trading Standards to launch a campaign to encourage victims of loan sharks to come forward.
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