Romford loan shark in prison for three years for blackmail
�A 41-year-old who operated as a loan shark in Havering has been sentenced to three years in prison for blackmail and a concurrent 15-month sentence for illegal money lending.
Stephen Basstoe, of Eastern Road, Romford, was convicted of one charge of blackmail and one of illegal money-lending following a six-day trial at Basildon Crown Court. He denied both charges.
The investigation and prosecution was led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Havering Council Trading Standards and the Metropolitan Police.
Basstoe ran the illegal business between January 2008 and his arrest in February 2011, threatening borrowers and forcing them to pay back far and above what they borrowed or could afford. No paperwork was ever given in respect of the illegal loans.
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A typical interest payment would be �150 per month per �1,000 borrowed until the whole amount borrowed could be repaid in one lump sum.
If borrowers fell behind on payments, late charges were added at �100 each day, meaning they fell deeper into a spiral of debt. Sometimes this was increased to �500 per day.
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The first payment was often taken immediately so those who borrowed �5,000 would actually only receive �4,250 but still be expected to pay back the whole �5,000.
One victim had his car taken from him ‘as security’ on the loan, which was then sold on as a loan to a further victim.
He asked for the vehicle to be returned as he needed it for work but this was refused.
The victim eventually fled London after Basstoe threatened his elderly grandmother, leaving the car with Basstoe.
He subsequently received several parking and other tickets.
Another victim had been forced to take out further loans with Basstoe and was soon made to believe he owed in excess of �20,000.
Basstoe made veiled threats that the loans had been given by a third party and that there would be severe repercussions for defaulting.
This individual had initially taken out a �2,000 loan as he was struggling financially in the run-up to Christmas 2008.
When he struggled to pay the monthly interest payments, which went no way to clearing his loan, he was hit with the �500 daily late payment charges.
Basstoe kept records of his illegal business on a computer which was uncovered by officers from the Metropolitan Police during the search, and passed on to the England Illegal Money Lending Team.
The records appeared to be incomplete so it was impossible to ascertain the true scale of the illegal business.
A financial investigation under proceeds of crime legislation is ongoing.
On sentencing Basstoe, His Honour Judge Owen-Jones said “It was clear that once the people had borrowed the money they would be under your control and power.
“Your demands increased simply to supply your greed for more and more money. Your behaviour was totally reprehensible, and loan sharks who resort to blackmail must be deterred.”