Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton Filipino woman sentenced for illegal money lending

A woman has been ordered to carry out community service for collecting almost £130,000 from illegal money lending.

Filipino national MaryLou Correa Gonzales of Vine Road, Shirley, Southampton, admitted lending almost £46,000 to fellow Filipinos in the city.

Up to 60 clients were given no formal paperwork or information on interest.

The judge at Southampton Crown Court sentenced her to 150 hours of community service.

The judge told Gonzales that "ignorance presents you with no defence" but accepted she had not been aware she had broken the law.

Clive Robinson, of Southampton Trading Standards, said: "We accept there was no indication of violent, intimidation or other criminal activity."

Nestor Tatel, editor of Halo Halo, a Filipino magazine based in Southampton, said while the levels of interest charged were "disappointing", there were cultural differences in approaches to money lending.

He said the practise of informal lending "to a friend" was common in the Philippines.

He said: "Here the government encourages people to go to the formal banking sector, but back home people tend to go to informal lenders - it's easy for them to borrow with an easy agreement."

He called for better education programmes to make immigrants aware of British law.

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: "We would urge people to avoid illegal money lenders at all costs.

"They are not a community service and will trap borrowers into spiralling debt, causing nothing but misery."

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