A loan shark in Bradford urged a woman to sell herself for sex so she could repay his exorbitant interest rates, a court heard.
When his victim tried to laugh off the suggestion, James Stone told her: “I’m not joking. I have no morals,” a judge at Bradford Crown Court was told.
Stone, 59, who appeared in the dock in a wheelchair yesterday, pleaded guilty to two charges of illegal money lending and two of money laundering.
Prosecutor Simon Mortimer said Stone, of Garden Close, Wyke, Bradford, illegally loaned at least £11,000 to 28 customers over 14 months, starting in January, 2011.
Mr Mortimer said the full scale of Stone’s business would never be known. An investigator put the overall loan figure at £45,000 but that was inflated by double counting and Stone’s poor record keeping.
“It was a substantial, well organised, criminal enterprise,” he said.
Stone had no licence from the Office of Fair Trading entitling him to run a money lending business. In 2011, a complaint was made about him to the England Illegal Money Lending Team, also known as Stop Loan Sharks.
He was arrested in February last year and cash and documents, including loan agreement forms, seized.
Stone was in possession of two of his victims’ bank cards, to stop them drawing out any money until they had paid their loan instalments.
The young woman he suggested sell her body to pay off her loan turned to him after losing her job. She borrowed £450, paying back £1,250 at £70 a week.
Other young women borrowed sums of £200 and were immediately charged double that amount.
“They were all vulnerable and they all needed cash,” Mr Mortimer said.
Police seized £2,400 from a bin in Stone’s bedroom. He was now said to be penniless.
Judge Peter Benson told Stone he had charged excessive rates of interest to young women who were “in difficult and straitened circumstances”.
Acknowledging Stone’s state of health, the judge sentenced him to a nine month jail term suspended for two years. In addition Stone was ordered to pay £2,400 costs and to work with the probation service on a community order.
His barrister, Nigel Edwards, told the court: “I don’t suggest that he is a Co-op lending society but those people in the area where he lived knew he’d come into a windfall and took advantage.”
Stone had been out of trouble for more than 20 years and reports from his doctor and a psychiatrist confirmed that his health was poor, said Mr Edwards.
After the case, David Lodge, divisional manager at West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service, said: “This case exemplifies how loan sharks will befriend their victims before forcing them to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford.
“We support the work of the England Illegal Money Lending Team and will continue to send a clear message that loan sharks will not be tolerated in our communities. If you are considering turning to a loan shark, don’t. They are not worth the misery they cause.”
To report a loan shark, call 0300 555 2222.