A CONVICTED fraudster ran a pawn-broking business with an “astronomical” typical APR for loans at one shop of 66,231 per cent, a court heard.
Graeme Walker, 51, who in 2008 was jailed for selling fake autographs of sports stars including Jonny Wilkinson, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard at a Chester shop, admitted illegal pawn-broking and money-lending from shops in North Wales between January 2010 and November 2011. He had no Office of Fair Trading licence.
Caernarfon Crown Court heard he operated shops at Buckley and Connah’s Quay called ‘Goldstar Jewellery’ and ‘Buy It, Sell It, Pawn It’.
Walker, of Mountain View Close, Connah’s Quay, received a 10-month jail term, suspended for 18 months, and must do 250 hours unpaid work. He must also pay £5,000 costs and an £8,161 confiscation order was made – the amount by which he was alleged to have benefitted.
The prosecution was brought by the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit.
Prosecutor John Wyn Williams said: “Mr Walker duped the general public into thinking they didn’t need to be regulated.” His previous convictions may explain why he didn’t apply to the OFT.
An investigation began after a complaint by Flintshire Citizens Advice Bureau to the Unit.
Mr Wyn Williams said: “All the customers can be fairly described as vulnerable in the circumstances they found themselves in.”
The prosecutor added another man had been arrested and cautioned for his involvement. Walker had maintained that he didn’t need to apply for a licence.
Michael Davies, defending, said Walker, did not run the business anymore. It was run by a family member who had a licence.
Walker was now an electrician.
Judge Peter Heywood said Walker had no consumer credit licence and the average APR at Connah’s Quay was “astronomical.” But he added :”Here no individuals have suffered.”
After the case Stephen Grey, manager of the Illegal Money Lending Unit, said Walker also operated a shop at Mold. Typical customers were single mums and unemployed.
He said :”£8,000 doesn’t sound a lot but to his victims it was a considerable amount. When you have nothing it is a lot of money.
“Walker took advantage of vulnerable people.”