A loan shark who paid a Snapchat influencer to advertise his services and threatened victims on social media has been jailed for 16 months, investigators said.
Rovin Mavunga, of Union Street, Doncaster, preyed on vulnerable people and used “cruel tactics” and threats of violence when they missed repayments, the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) said.
Mavunga charged interest rates of almost 100% on loans and pocketed £140,000 in repayments over a 22-month period, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
The court heard that the 24-year-old ran an “organised, sophisticated and profitable illegal business”, in which he offered short-term, high-interest loans to 130 borrowers – increasing repayments arbitrarily and adding harsh penalty charges for late and missed payments.
His victims included a single mother-of-two, who was attacked in the street as a result of an unpaid debt and was forced to move away to escape the threats, and an extremely financially vulnerable man who took out 91 loans.
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The woman became aware of Mavunga’s business through his Snapchat adverts and took out a number of small loans before being unable to pay.
She was slapped twice on the face by a man who approached her in the street and asked: “Where’s Lou’s money?”
The IMLT said Mavunga sent a picture of a house and vehicle to another victim in an attempt to intimidate them, believing them to belong to the victim’s mother.
He then introduced the victim to a man called “Arnold”, who used Snapchat to threaten to burn his house down and increase the interest on his £1,000 loan until he owed £7,000.
One threatening text message sent by Mavunga to his victims said: “Sometimes it’s better to avoid some circumstances whilst you can. Because when I start coming for you it will be too late.”
Another read: “You keep thinking it’s a game til I find you.”
One victim pleaded with the loan shark not to involve his family when he sent a message that said: “I will speak to your mum now… And I will come back later… She’s got a nice car.”
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Mavunga was arrested in January 2020 when officers from the IMLT, working in partnership with Doncaster Trading Standards and South Yorkshire Police, executed a warrant at his home and seized electronic devices.
The IMLT said he continued to operate illegally following the arrest, setting up a company called 24/7 Loans in February 2020.
He was subsequently re-arrested in March 2020.
Phone records showed Mavunga made a profit of £25,000 from one group of 35 borrowers and the outstanding loan balance at the time of his first arrest was £100,000.
Sentencing Mavunga for illegal money lending offences on Wednesday, Recorder Megan Rhys condemned his “appalling conduct taking advantage of people who were personally and financially vulnerable”.
The IMLT said the judge added that those borrowing from Mavunga “did not borrow large amounts for extravagant lifestyles but for basic needs” and were “understandably terrified” by the threats made as their debts “escalated beyond all recognition”.
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Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “Mavunga ran an organised, sophisticated and profitable illegal money lending business, where he paid a social media influencer to advertise his services online to gain more customers.
“He deliberately preyed on financially vulnerable people and used cruel tactics to enforce the debts.
“This case demonstrates the misery that loan sharks cause and the way in which customers of unregulated lenders are exposed to unscrupulous lending practices, such as threats, high-interest rates and penalty charges.”