'Ruthless' loan shark forced victim to flee home

A loan shark who became a millionaire by charging up to 2,437 per cent interest and using an army of enforcers to collect debts owed by poor families was yesterday jailed for five years.

Judge Adrian Smith said John Kiely, 36, was a "ruthless individual" after Kiely was found guilty of offences including blackmail and illegal money lending. One of his victims, Donna Ockerby, 45, claimed she was left fearing for her life and was forced to move to a secret location to escape him.

Mrs Ockerby, an auxiliary nurse, borrowed £300 from Kiely to pay for her wedding dress in January 2007 because she was "absolutely desperate", the jury heard.

He dispensed the money from a roll of £20 notes from his black Range Rover, complete with the personalised number plate "B0Y".

Mrs Ockerby said she then faced aggressive demands for money when she struggled to repay her debt because her working hours were cut. Mrs Ockerby told the jury she feared for her life when a concrete block was thrown at her window just hours after a debt collector called.

Prosecutor Ben Mills said that Kiely made a £2.9m profit between October 2003 and his arrest in October last year, when he estimated he had £800,000 in outstanding loans spread between 900 clients. His wealth enabled him to pay cash for a £868,650 mock-Tudor seven-bedroom house, complete with turret, in picturesque Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire.

Judge Smith told Kiely he had bypassed the financial regulatory system designed to safeguard his 1,200 borrowers. He said: "Your victims, because that is what they were, were vulnerable people who were unable to obtain credit elsewhere."

He said Kiely had failed to provide borrowers with paperwork for loans and charged "punitive rates of interest" and "arbitrary penalties" to those who fell behind with repayments.

Kiely had thought Mrs Ockerby was "giving him the runaround" when she had fallen behind with repayments and had left her frightened to death. When Kiely had visited her, "you put your face so close to hers she thought you were going to headbutt her".

Judge Smith said Kiely had on two occasions dealt with Mrs Ockerby "in a chilling, sinister and deliberately menacing way".

Mrs Ockerby, speaking after the case said: "These people prey on people's misfortune. If anyone wants to go through the horror that I have been through, then so be it, but their lives will be wrecked.

"There are more people like Kiely out there. People need to be aware. You will never get to the end of the last payment. It just goes on and on and on.

"I have heard of other loan sharks operating in Manchester and I'm sure that many people will be forced to use them, especially in the credit crunch."