AN unlicensed moneylender was in receipt of social welfare payments while operating his illicit business a court has heard.
Ray McInerney, aged 38, of Rhebogue Hill, Rhebogue pleaded guilty to “engaging in the business of money lending” without a licence contrary to the provisions of Section 98 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Limerick Circuit Court heard the offences took place at various locations in Limerick on dates between January 1, 2010 and July 9, 2012.
McInerney also pleaded guilty to harassing a father and son at locations in Limerick on dates on November and December 2011 and he admitted making a threat - in July 2011 - to one of the men that he would stab his son.
The harassment involved the making of dozens phone calls and the sending of “sinister and disturbing” text messages”
During a sentencing hearing, Det Garda Padraig O’Dwyer said gardai were alerted after the injured parties made a complaint about the threats they had received.
He said the younger of the two was a previous customer of Mr McInerney’s but that he had repaid all of the monies in full.
He said the man had borrowed €20,000 over a number of years and had repaid €26,000.
While they were at Roxboro Road garda station, Det Garda O’Dwyer said he personally answered a call from Mr McInerney to one of the men and asked him to stop.
During their investigations, gardai discovered that around €400,000 had “passed through” one account controlled by the defendant between March 2005 and February 2012.
Judge Carroll Moran was told Mr McInerney, who has a “sparse employment history” was in receipt of social welfare benefits from 2003 until the matters before the court came to the attention of gardai.
John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, said the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) “have been interacting with the accused” since.
In his evidence, Det Garda O’Dwyer said when gardai searched the home of the defendant’s home on July 9, 2012 they found €10,000 in cash in a walk-in wardrobe.
A “tick list” containing names and amounts of monies was found in the urinal of the en-suite.
The court heard that during interviews with gardai Mr McInerney “incriminated himself in a very wide way”.
He admitted harassing the father and son by repeatedly texting and phoning them and he also made admissions in relation to operating an illegal money lending business.
Mr McInerney told gardai he had issued around €100,000 in loans over a ten-year period and that he had made around €150,000 in profit.
“There is little doubt that he was operating an extensive moneylending business,” said Mr O’Sullivan who added that the defendant told gardai “I have never once failed to collect a loan”.
Brian McInerney BL said his client was charging his customers a 30% interest rate which is less than the rate being charged by some licensed money lenders and a fraction of what other illegal money lenders can charge.
He said the father-of-three was “deeply embarrassed” as he had been “publicly humiliated” since he was first charged.
Mr McInerney said there was “no rational explanation” for the harassing phone calls and text messages but he said drink was a factor.
Judge Carroll Moran will impose sentence on January 17, next.
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