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Filipina Loan Shark Escapes Jail In Cambridge Court

23 Feb 2013

Norberta Pineda was sentenced to 250 hours community service over loan shark charges  

A woman from Cambridge has been sentenced to community service after judge says she was a reasonable woman in spite of the conviction for illegal money lending.

Norberta Pineda, 52, of Coldhams Lane by Cambridge airport, was arrested in July last year, after the England Illegal Money Lending Team, who work in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council, executed a warrant at her home seizing documentary evidence, including signed cheques from borrowers which would be cashed if they did not pay on time. Pineda ran the illegal business for two years lending to at least 20 borrowers. 

The sentencing happened on Friday 22 February after she pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal money lending on the previous day at Cambridge Crown Court.

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Judge Gareth Hawkesworth sitting in Cambridge Crown Court says Pinay loan shark  Norberta Pineda was a "reasonable woman"   

Judge Gareth Hawkesworth presiding at the hearing gave Pineda credit as she did not match the normal profile of a loan shark. He said the people she lent money to were not the usual vulnerable people, nor had she used violence to get repayments off late payers.

He said she lent to neighbors, friends and family. 

Judge Hawkesworth added that as Pineda did not fit the normal profile of a loan shark, and that she was a "reasonable" woman she would be spared jail, which was normal in these types of crimes.

On behalf of the prosecution Simon Mortimer told the court how Pineda ran a “substantial well organised criminal enterprise”, dealing in at least £30,000 worth of loans over two years.

It is known that Pineda had at least 20 borrowers and expected to make a return of almost £10,000; however there is the probability that the business could have been on an even larger scale, as there is a likelihood that documentation and records have been destroyed.

Pineda charged varied interest on the loans, to fellow members of the local Filipino community. She funded the illegal business after withdrawing money from her credit card or taking out loans.

Victims described how they often paid back almost 100% interest on the loans, if not more, during a short period of time- a loan for £2000, had to be repaid as £3920 over eight months and a loan for £3000 was repaid as £7320 over 12 months.

In some instances Pineda would take the first payment immediately, so one victim who borrowed £1000, was actually only given £820.

She pleaded guilty an earlier hearing to three counts of illegal money lending and not guilty to money laundering. This charge will lie on file.

Barrister Caroline Allison defending told the court that Pineda was of previous good character, that this case had caused her a lot of stress and that she had not known what she was doing was a crime.

Allison added that her client would not lend money again and was truly sorry for what had happened. 

Pineda was sentenced to 250 hours community service and ordered to pay £3,100 towards prosecution costs. 

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Loan sharks may appear to be doing their borrowers a favour but they are committing a criminal offence, motivated only by their own greed. The credit industry is regulated to protect borrowers but those who turn to a loan shark are offered no protection and can, as this case shows, be exploited. We are continuing to crack down on this crime and would urge anyone who has borrowed money from a loan shark, or knows of someone who has to contact us in the strictest confidence on 0300 555 2222.”

Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.

The project which is coordinated with local trading standards officers and police ha been cracking down on the blight of loan sharks who prey on the vulnerable in society, especially those who are foreign and do not necessarily have bank accounts and access to loans and overdrafts at normal rates.

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