'Loan shark' jailed for no business license

A man who ran an unlicensed money lending business was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment on Tuesday for operating a business without a trade and business license. 

Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez referred to Leroy Armstrong Henry’s money lending as “a loan shark business.” She called it a scourge on any society, especially in Cayman, which has strict laws governing financial transactions. 

She acknowledged the usual starting point in fixing sentence would be a financial penalty. While the charge itself might not seem serious, the circumstances of the offending and the defendant’s record were serious, she emphasized. “The court has to send a clear message that criminal activity, even under the Trade and Business Law, will not be encouraged,” she said. 

Henry, 38, pleaded guilty to operating his business in September-October 2013 and January-April 2014. He made loans of between $400 and $1,000 and charged between 18 percent and 34 percent interest, keeping the borrowers’ passports as security. 

Ironically, the magistrate noted, authorities became aware of his “business” after he filed a complaint about an attempted robbery. Investigations showed that he was using intimidating tactics in collecting on loans that were not paid back on time. 

In addition to the circumstances of this case, the magistrate said she had to look at Henry’s record of offending. His 2013 loan business was conducted while he was on court bail for other offenses not related to the current case; he received several suspended sentences and terms of probation in January 2014. He continued his loan business. 

A social inquiry report showed him to be a good family man, but his attitude toward his offending behavior was a high-risk factor in assessing the likelihood of re-offending. 

The magistrate pointed out that Henry’s guilty pleas came very late. She found no mitigating circumstances and said community service was not appropriate. Defense attorney John Furniss had asked for a suspended sentence, but the magistrate said Henry had exhausted any non-custodial approach. 

Ordering a three-month sentence for each period of offending, she noted that she was running them concurrently and not activating any of the previously imposed suspended sentences.  

Six charges of unlawful possession of other peoples’ passports were left on file, meaning they could be brought back if circumstances changed. Henry had been ordered in April to return the passports to the court.