A SUSPECTED loan shark, said to have operated across East Lancashire for more than eight years, has been charged after a national fraud operation.

Stephen Fossey, 44, is accused of running an illegal loans business from his grocers stall on Bacup Market and home in Rossendale.

An investigation by the England Illegal Money Lending Team and Lancashire County Council’s trading standards team also saw his home in Foxhill Drive, Whitewell Bottom, near Waterfoot, raided.

Fossey has been charged with engaging in a money lending operation, without a licence under the Consumer Credit Act, between January 2004 and August of this year.

He is also accused of acquiring or using criminal property.

Fossey has been remanded on bail pending committal proceedings at Burnley Magistrates Court on November 8.

Police and council officers have been working together to investigate allegations of illegal money lending throughout the county.

Illegal lenders charge huge rates of interest and customers are often threatened if they are unable to pay.

In some cases lenders have kept their client’s benefit book in a bid to get prompt payments.