TWO loan sharks linked to the taxi trade in Portsmouth and Havant took payments totalling £520,000 from their victims, a court heard.
Now as the pair were yesterday jailed, the head of a money-lending task force has warned other loan sharks: we’ll send you to prison.
Kevin White and Adrian Dowse ran an illegal loans book worth £769,681 over more than two years.
Together they made loans of cash and sold cars and minibuses in Havant and Portsmouth, imposing a rate of up to 50 per cent interest.
One victim thought he was buying a vehicle for £10,000 but ended up paying £13,000.
Another victim’s loan on a VW Passat was increased by £3,090.
When he could not pay, the pair imposed penalties of £500 before transferring the car to another person.
Now the pair have been jailed for two years and nine months by a judge after they confessed to their crimes.
Former car sales worker White, 56, who had links to Havant firms 626 Cars and A1 Top Flight Travel, declared earnings of £6,780 between 2013 to 2014, while Dowse, 46, declared nothing between 2012 and 2015.
But Portsmouth Crown Court heard in reality they were running a ‘significant’ operation, lending to 107 people.
When they were raided by the Illegal Money Lending Team Dowse and White were yet to receive £261,885.
In the raid on White’s home in Bramdean Drive on October 13 last year, they found he owned two Mercedes and had bought a £24,925 Mercedes, paying a £3,000 cash deposit.
At Dowse’s home in Botley Drive, investigators found £12,195 in cash and discovered he was registered keeper of a Mercedes and a Volkswagen.
In a second raid on February 2 this year, Dowse handed £4,500 to his partner who hid it until she was in police custody.
Prosecutor Lee Bennett told the court that blank Littlewoods order cards were found at White’s home, while 81 completed cards were found at Dowse’s home.
They detailed loans made to borrowers.
‘It’s not disputed but this demonstrates these two worked hand-in-hand in these financial activities,’ prosecutor Lee Bennett said.
Documents found by investigators revealed the pair had charged £6,000 in penalties to the borrowers.
Mr Bennett said: ‘Between January 1, 2013 and October 13, 2015, a period of two years and nine months, when this investigation brought their activities to an end, Mr White and Mr Dowse were running an illegal money-lending business.
‘It was, if I can use plain language, a very significant business indeed.
‘It combined cash loans and selling of motor vehicles on credit, all of which is reflected in the pleas tendered.
He added: ‘Many of the loans on these records started in March 2014.
‘The offending activity was particularly concentrated in that period.
‘The blunt point is that this was a business in ascendancy at the time when it was interrupted.
‘The total value of the loan book and interest charged at the time was £769,681, based on the records.
‘The total amount of repayments received by these defendants as of October 13 was £520,080.
‘But for their activities being brought to an end they were due to receive further repayments of £261,885.’
Mr Bennett added the records seized from their homes showed the pair had imposed around £6,000 penalty interest on the loans.
Mr Bennett added: ‘A key feature of this case particularly, is the extent of top-up loans, money that’s been used time and time against to put out more loans after the principal loan has been made.’
He added: ‘The words loan sharks conjures up images of threatening individuals, threatening borrowers – but that’s not this case.’
Addressing the pair, judge Claudia Ackner said: ‘The fact is that people who went on to your books would be in very straitened circumstances and financially vulnerable, needing to be protected from entering into unscrupulous financial arrangements that would take them further into financial debt.’
White, 56, of Bramdean Drive, Havant, and Dowse, 46, of Botley Drive, Havant, who had no relevant convictions, both pleaded guilty to unlawfully engaging in activity of consumer credit business without a licence, and unlawfully engaging in business regulated, namely money laundering.
They also both admitted two money laundering offences, possession of criminal property and converting criminal property.
Many of the borrowers were self-employed taxi drivers, an IMLT spokeswoman said.
Luke Ponte, mitigating for White, said: ‘These men did not exploit individuals, there’s not a whisper of exploitation.’
He added: ‘This in my submission is a situation that spiralled out of control, that began initially with loans to family members and close friends, soon became a wider enterprise.’
n Prosecutors offered no evidence against Tanya McGraw, 39, of Botley Drive and Tracy White, 51, of Bramdean Drive, Havant, who had been charged in the investigation.
‘Snapshot’ means true extent of operation is hidden
THE partners and children of loan sharks Kevin White and Adrian Dowse wept as they watched the pair jailed.
In court the pair’s defence barristers Luke Ponte and Sarah Jones told how the men’s lending started with family and friends, before spiralling out of control as their loan book grew.
Dowse and White, both fathers, were seen as respectable figures in the community and in the taxi industry, they said, and claimed they just wanted to help others.
Yet in secret and out of sight of authorities, the two cabbies were amassing an illicit lending business worth £750,000, which was just getting started when it was stopped. The court heard they said the operation started with just £50,000 seed cash.
When it came to sentencing yesterday, 17 people, including some of those who borrowed cash, wrote to the judge in support of the two men, saying they were never threatened or offered violence over the loans.
But the men handed over no paperwork when they illegally sold cars on credit, kept the second set of keys, upped the loans, and charged up to 50 per cent interest.
‘At the very least you were not being open or fair to these borrowers who were financially disadvantaged,’ the judge said.
The full extent of their actions and the value of the loans book will never be known, with the documents seized showing just a ‘snapshot’ of their enterprise, Illegal Money Lending Team head of service Tony Quigley said.
Judge Claudia Ackner, addressing the men, said she accepted both were genuinely remorseful over their actions.
Prosecutor Lee Bennett told the court investigators did not accept the loans were made to simply help others.
Indeed, the judge said the men could be ‘accommodating and flexible’ to friends and family but not to others. The judge added had they not been stopped, they would have continued.