Loan shark couple jailed for benefit fraud
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Legal
A Manchester couple have been jailed for benefit fraud and illegal money lending.
Thomas Kiely, 57, and Caroline Lewis, 47, of Monsall Street, Harpurhey, were investigated and prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (EIMLT) working in partnership with Manchester City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
At Manchester Crown Court today, Kiely was jailed for 26 months, while Lewis was handed a 10-month sentence.
Kiely (pictured) had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to illegal money lending, money laundering, two counts of benefit fraud and dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances knowing it would affect entitlement to benefit.
Lewis pleaded guilty to four counts of benefit fraud and money laundering.
In April 2012, the EIMLT executed warrants at the couple’s home, uncovering more than £4,000 in cash, along with loan books and other documentation relating to the illegal business. An additional £650 in cash was found at a second address associated with Kiely.
The couple were on holiday at the time but were arrested at a later date and charged with the offences.
The loan books, which were proven to be in Kiely’s handwriting, documented more than £100,000 in loans.
On behalf of the prosecution Ben Mills told the court how the couple were unemployed, living in rented accommodation and in receipt of benefits. HMRC records showed they had not paid any tax.
However, the crooks lived a lifestyle far beyond this, spending money on home furnishings, vehicles and holidays.
Between November 2005 and August 2012, they spent more than £150,000 in cash and owned four vehicles, valued at over £60,000.
They’d also spent almost £14,000 between August 2010 and April 2012 on holidays to Thailand, Egypt, Majorca and Alicante.
Upon sentencing, Judge Hernandez said the loan sharks' business "was a not a sophisticated operation. It grew from small beginnings but involved significant planning to maintain it with a high level of expenditure over significant period of time. The absence of true records shows how difficult it is to get a true figure. The hard working members of public are entitled to a degree of revulsion at these crimes that have allowed you to live beyond means.”
A financial investigation under proceeds of crime legislation is ongoing.
The chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, Lord Toby Harris, said: "Loan sharks target the most vulnerable in society and often trap them for years – even decades – with crippling repayments, destroying lives of individuals and their families.
“Trading standards are working extremely hard to tackle these despicable criminals –the specialist Illegal Money Lending Team, funded by the National Trading Standards Board, is making a real difference in communities all over the country.
"The team provides a safe haven enabling victims to come forward and works together with local authority trading standards services, and other partners, to bring loan sharks to justice."
Councillor Kate Chappell, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said: “The days when loan sharks can get away with living luxury lifestyles while their victims endure a living hell are over, and this pair will be joining many other illegal money lenders who have been sent to jail.
“Anyone who knows about the activities of loan sharks in Manchester should call the Illegal Money Lending Team’s confidential hotline, while anyone who needs to borrow money should contact one of the city’s many credit unions.”