Alleged bookies’ ring is smashed

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Two men have been held on suspicion of illegal money-lending and bookmaking after raids in Preston.

The North West Trading Standards illegal money lending team and the Gambling Commission executed warrants at two homes in Ashton yesterday.

The properties were searched and items including a substantial amount of cash and documentation were seized.

Two men, aged 72 and 43, were held in custody last night.

They were due to he questioned by officers from Trading Standards and the Gambling Commission.

The anti-loan shark operation also forms part of a Gambling Commission investigation into the alleged illegal provision of facilities for gambling under section 33 of the Gambling Act 2005.

Jim Potts, Lancashire County Council’s chief trading standards officer, said: “The net is closing in on illegal money lenders.

“These predators bring misery to their communities by preying on the vulnerable, and enforcing their debts through fear and intimidation.

“We have already had one successful prosecution in Lancashire and I am sure there will be many more.

“With our help the courts are able to impose penalties and confiscate the ill gotten gains of criminals.

“Anyone who has found themselves in trouble with an illegal money lender can get help.

“The law is on your side – but we need the information to catch the criminals.”

The operation is the result of information sent to the report a loan shark confidential email service, which is run by Trading Standards.

Nationally, the Stop Loan Sharks project has so far helped more than 11,500 victims, written off more than £25m of illegal debt, seized and confiscated more than £2.5m and secured more than 60 years in prison sentences for illegal lending and related criminal offences.

To report a loan shark 24 hours a day, call the Trading Standards confidential hotline 0300 5552222.