A LOAN shark who ran an illegal money-lending business across Burnley, Rossendale and Todmorden for more than four-and-a-half years could be facing jail.

Stephen Fossey ran his illegal operation from a grocer’s stall on Bacup Market but it stretched across several East Lancs towns.

Investigators from the England Illegal Money Lending Team were tipped off by Lancashire trading standards, who were already probing a bogus tobacco racket involving Fossey.

Raids were conducted on the 59-year-old’s home in Foxhill Drive, Whitewell Bottom, near Waterfoot, and paperwork was seized.

Now Fossey, during a brief hearing at Burnley Crown Court, has admitted engaging in a money lending operation, without a licence under the Consumer Credit Act, and acquiring or using criminal property.

Prosecutors say a snapshot of Fossey’s records showed that he was lending out £140,000, over a 13-month period, with around 450 loans or top-up loans to 102 people on his books, and was expecting a £100,000 return.

Judge Beverley Lunt remanded Fossey on bail for pre-sentence reports until April 29. The offence can attract prison terms of around two years on conviction.

Speaking after the case, Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of the county council, said: “This case sends a clear warning that illegal money lenders in Lancashire will be pursued and prosecuted.

“Our trading standards team will continue to work closely with the Illegal Money Lending Team, police and other agencies to protect local communities from loan sharks.”

Fossey was convicted of trade mark offences after being caught with a stash of illegal tobacco valued at £16,000.

Fake Jin Ling cigarettes were found in an outbuilding linked to Fossey, bogus hand-rolling tobacco was found at his home and rogue tobacco products were also discovered in a mobile grocery van belonging to the grocer.