A CONVICTED illegal money lender from Dudley has been ordered by the courts to pay back over £130,000 in assets.

John Guest, 62, was given a 22-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, in June after admitting two charges of unlawful money lending, another of concealing or removing criminal property and also possessing criminal property.

Guest, of Upper Gornal, had assets amounting to £134,225 and has been ordered to pay the amount within three months or face two years in prison.

Wolverhampton Crown Court was told Guest took advantage of his reputation of being a legitimate lender to identify previous customers for his own financial gain.

During sentencing the court heard how Guest had worked as a self-employed agent for various doorstep loan companies for over 20 years before moving into unlawful money lending.

Prosecutor Joseph Millington said that Guest, of Upper Gornal, issued more than 270 loans ranging from £100 to £3,000 to 58 borrowers, charging them interest of between 50 to 100 per cent and consistently topping up loans to increase his profit margins. The majority were paying off two or more loans at the same time.

Officers from the Illegal Money Lending Team, Dudley Council Trading Standards and West Midlands Police, executed a warrant at his home last August, where they recovered customer agreements and payments books containing details of loans issued and collections. A total of £18,240 cash was also found inside a safe.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are a blight on communities and prey on some of the most vulnerable members of society.

“We are committed to using Proceeds of Crime legislation to confiscate criminals’ assets so they don’t benefit financially from unlawful activity. This outcome shows how agencies have worked together to bring offenders like John Guest to justice and sends a strong message that crime does not pay.”

Councillor Nicolas Barlow, cabinet member responsible for Dudley trading standards said: “We’re really pleased to see the outcome of this action.

“Loan sharks have a devastating impact on our communities, preying on the most vulnerable people, and Dudley Trading Standards fully supports the work of the IMLT to stamp out their criminal activity in Dudley and provides assistance with their investigations.

“There is never any need to turn to these exploitative criminals, if people do have money worries and don’t know where to turn, help and advice is available from Citizens Advice, the Local Welfare Assistance LOAN Scheme and Castle & Crystal Credit Union.”

To report a loan shark call the 24 hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk