TWO illegal money lenders linked to the taxi trade in Portsmouth and Havant took payments totaling £520,000 from their victims, a court heard.
Kevin White and Adrian Dowse ran an illegal loans book worth £769,681, over a period of 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.
Today 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, declared earnings of £6,780 in total between 2013 to 2014 to the taxman, while Dowse, 46, declared nothing between 2012 and 2015.
But Portsmouth Crown Court heard that in reality the pair were running a 'significant' illicit business, making loans to 107 people.
When they were raided by police and the Illegal Money Lending Team, funded by government to crackdown on loan sharks, Dowse and White were yet to receive another £261,885.
The court heard when officers raided White's home in Bramdean Drive on October 13 last year, they found he owned two Mercedes and had bought another £24,925 Mercedes with a £3,000 deposit in cash.
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 blank Littlewoods order cards were found at White's home, while 81 completed cards were found at Dowse's home. All of them 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 of penalties to the borrowers.
Opening the case, Mr Bennett said: 'This is a case about illegal money lending and money laundering.
'It follows an investigation by the national Illegal Money Lending Team into the activities of Mr White and his business associate Mr Dowse across Portsmouth and Havant.
'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.
'As with all these offences it's a matter of piecing together the jigsaw pieces from the paperwork available.
'Records that were recovered and available to the prosecution show loans being made to no less than 107 people between June 2013 and October 2015.
'Those records covered a slightly smaller period of two years and four months.
'Many of the loans on these records started in March 2014.
'The offending activity was particularly concentrated in that period.
'The blunt point is this was a business in ascendancy in 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 interests 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.'
Sentencing, judge Claudia Ackner said: 'The fact is that people who went on to your books would be in very straightened 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, both pleaded guilty to unlawfully engaging in activity of consumer credit business without a licence, unlawfully engaging in business regulated, namely money laundering. They also both admitted two money laundering offences: possession of criminal property and converting criminal property.
Investigators discovered they had paid in illicit-gotten cash into their own bank accounts.
The Illegal Money Lending Team, which investigated and prosecuted the pair, found many of the borrowers were self-employed taxi drivers, a 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 spiraled out of control, that began initially with loans to family members and close friends, soon became a wider enterprise.'
Report a loan shark to the IMLT on 0300 555 2222.
People in Portsmouth can get debt advice from Citizens Advice Bureau in Portsmouth from its drop-in service, run between 9am and 4pm in the week.
For more debt advice from Portsmouth CAB, see portsmouthcab.org.uk/debt-advice-centre-portsmouth-cab