A WOMAN who ran an illegal money lending operation for 10 years has been fined £1,000.

A court was told Christine Hughes, 54 sent associate Margaret Bennett to cash people’s benefits and take out what was owed to her, before returning the remainder of the money to her customers.

Mold Crown Court was told she believed she was providing a service to family, friends and acquaintances.

For the last five years her husband, David Hughes, had been laundering her profits through his various bank accounts.

All three escaped immediate imprisonment.

Christine Hughes, described as housebound, of Chester Road, Flint was fined £1,000 after she pleaded guilty to illegal money lending.

David Hughes, 54 of Chester Road, convicted of money laundering earlier last week, was placed on a 12-month community order with 250 hours’ unpaid work.

Bennett, 45 of Maes Gwyn in Flint admitted money lending on the basis that she was the ‘gofer’ and received a six-month community order with supervision, as well as being sent on an educational course.

The judge, Mr Recorder Andrew Keyser QC said that to a large extent she had been taken advantage of.

The court was told cards and PIN numbers had been taken as security and as a means of enforcing payment.

Christine Hughes had taken advantage of people who were vulnerable, the judge said.

John Philpotts, prosecuting said customers’ Post Office payment cards were seized as security and as a way of extracting regular payments without difficulty.

One woman borrowed £1,000 and was expected to repay £2,000.

Investigations were set up by the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit, observations were kept, and Bennett was arrested as she left a Post Office counter in a Spar shop in Flint in May last year.

She was a regular customer and would often cash the benefits of others there.

Christine Hughes was arrested at her home, which was searched, and £7,000 in cash was seized together with diaries and calendars which had numerous names and amounts of money written on them.

Peter Moss, for Christine Hughes, said it was not a large-scale operation and of the 16 names obtained by the prosecution, four were from the same family.

Brian Treadwell, for David Hughes, said Hughes was a well-liked, dependable man who had worked at the same factory for many years and also did some painting and decorating work on a casual basis.

There was no clear and identifiable loser in the case, he said.

Oliver King, for Bennett, said she had certain learning difficulties and had not appreciated that she was doing anything wrong.