Loan shark crackdown intensifies

SUFFOLK is stepping up its war on loan sharks today by bringing in some of the country's most experienced officers to stamp out the practice of illegal money lending.

SUFFOLK is stepping up its war on loan sharks today by bringing in some of the country's most experienced officers to stamp out the practice of illegal money lending.

On the back of Suffolk County Council's successful prosecution of Ipswich loan shark Marissa Ico, the county wants to hammer home its message.

It has revealed that a loan shark crackdown team from Birmingham will be travelling to Suffolk to strengthen the county's campaign.

The Birmingham City Council team has had success in bringing loan sharks to justice - not just on illegal money lending charges but related offences such as money laundering, counterfeiting and assault since it was created in 2004.

It is estimated that the team has helped wipe out more than £2million of illegal debt 'owed' by some of the poorest people in Britain. It has also seized guns and drugs and recovered counterfeit items worth more than £100,000.

Their work in Suffolk is the result of £302,000 from central government for the east and south east of England and it will focus on in Lowestoft, Yarmouth and Peterborough.

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Steve Greenfield, county trading standards officer for Suffolk, said: “We have already seen success in Suffolk cracking down on vile individuals who prey on those in need, and who blight our communities.

“Recently, the courts made a loan shark in Suffolk pay back her victims for the money they paid her.

“However, loan sharks can never redress the emotional damage they do to people's lives. This is why we need to stop them from operating and need agencies and people to report them to us in confidence.”

Ipswich Hospital employee Ico, of Orwell Road, illegally lent money at rates of up to 155per cent before aggressively chasing her debtors.

But the mother-of-two was last month ordered to pay back £15,000 and complete 100 hours of unpaid community work after admitting operating the illegal credit business between 2003 and 2006.

Suffolk County Council's trading standards team described her operation as “appalling exploitation”.

People can report loan sharks by sending an email to stoploansharks@suffolkcc.gov.uk or by calling 01473 401122.