Great-gran, 83, is caught operating as Britain's oldest loan shark

Britain’s oldest loan shark, 83, is spared jail over reign of terror that saw her tell customers  ‘You know I can find you’

  • Tabitha Richardson was described as being both ‘threatening’ and ‘menacing’

A great-grandmother aged 83 was caught operating as Britain’s oldest illegal loan shark as she told frightened customers who missed repayments: ‘You know I can find you.’

White-haired Tabitha Richardson was described as ‘threatening and menacing’, preying on vulnerable neighbours by charging 40 per cent interest on six-month loans for hard-up people to pay bills.

Shocked investigators from the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit found she had been getting away with being a loan shark for 20 years illegally, loaning more than £120,000 at sky high rates from just seven victims.

The anti-crime team also found a safe with more than £6,000 cash at her home in Newport, Gwent, even though she claimed to have lost the keys.

She was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, at Cardiff Crown Court. 

Tabitha Richardson was caught operating as Britain’s oldest illegal loan shark

The 83-year-old great-grandmother was described as “threatening and menacing” preying on vulnerable neighbours with 40 per cent interest on six-month loans

A spokesperson for the specialist investigation team said: ‘Loan sharks are often stereotypically portrayed as hard men wielding baseball bats.

‘But Tabitha Richardson is female and despite her age, was menacing to her victims as well, threatening them when they did not pay their debt, often in the full knowledge that her victims were unable to pay.’

A court heard that when people missed payments, Richardson texted one victim: ‘You have got to speak to me and let me know what’s going on before I come looking for you’.

The male victim borrowed £31,000 and paid back interest in the region of £12,400.

Another female victim also received threatening messages, with Richardson texting her: ‘I don’t want to come and look for you but your not leaving me any other thing to do. Let’s not fall out, we have known each other for a long time.’

She borrowed in the region of £46,300 and paid back £18,600 in interest.

Another man first borrowed £2,000 to cover the costs of Christmas and she would attend his home on a weekly basis to collect repayments.

He went on to take out two to three loans a year being charged 40 per cent in interest on a 28-week loan – and paid £765 in interest from another loan of £1,850.

The court heard how Richardson worked for a legal loans company but her individual money lending licence expired in 2003.

In August 2022, a search was carried out on her home by officers who found a large number of financial documents and loan books.

Shocked investigators found she had been getting away with being a loan shark for 20 years illegally

A safe was found in her garage which she said only contained property deeds and that she had lost the keys.

A locksmith was called and £6,500 cash was found inside along with bank books and financial records.

The action brought by WIMLU involved seven victims who had borrowed a total of £126,020. She accepted that she had made the loans without carrying out proper affordability tests.

Richardson pleaded guilty to engaging in activity requiring a licence when not a licensee, carrying on a regulated activity when not an authorised or exempt person and money laundering.

Andrew Kendal, mitigating, said her primary reason for doing so was to ‘help’ the people she was lending to.

The barrister said she wished to apologise to her victims for causing them stress.

Judge Mr Recorder Ben Blakemore told her that the interest rates she was charging were extortionate and that she had been exploiting people for her own profit.

‘Your interest charges kept them in a ‘cycle of debt’ and were exploiting them for profit,’ he said.

‘You told probation you were doing people a favour and helping them out and were not out to make profit for yourself.’

Recorder Blakemore told Richardson she had avoided an immediate custodial sentence ‘by a whisker’ partly due to her age. ‘You rode roughshod over those protections,’ he said.

Richardson was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, at Cardiff Crown Court.

After the case a spokesperson for the investigating team said, ‘This is a case where an 83-year-old woman preyed on vulnerable people to extort money from them through illegal lending, charging £400 interest on every £1,000 she leant.

‘Now that the sentence is over, SRS will proceed with a proceeds of crime hearing to try to recover as much money as possible for her victims.’

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