A loan shark who threatened borrowers and paid a Snapchat influencer to advertise his illegal business has been jailed for 16 months.
Rovin Mavunga, 24, preyed on vulnerable people and used “cruel tactics” and threats of violence when they missed their repayments, England’s illegal money lending team said (IMLT ).
Sheffield Crown Court has learned that it charges almost 100% interest rates on short-term loans and has pocketed £ 140,000 in repayments over a 22-month period.
Mavunga, of Union Street in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, ran an “organized, sophisticated and profitable illegal business” that arbitrarily increased reimbursements and added stiff penalties for late and missed payments, the court said.
Among its 130 borrowers were an extremely financially vulnerable man who took out 91 loans and a single mother of two who was assaulted on the streets for unpaid debt and forced to relocate to escape threats.
The woman learned of Mavunga’s business through her Snapchat ads and took out a number of small loans before she was unable to pay.
She was slapped twice in the face by a man who approached her on the street and asked her, “Where’s Lou’s money?”
The IMLT said Mavunga sent a photo of a house and vehicle to another victim in an attempt to intimidate them, believing that they belonged to the victim’s mother.
He then introduced the victim to a man called “Arnold”, who used Snapchat to threaten to burn down his house and increase the interest on his £ 1,000 loan until he owed £ 7,000.
A threatening text message sent by Mavunga to his victims read: “Sometimes it is best to avoid certain circumstances while you can. Because when I start to pick you up, it will be too late.
Another read: “You keep thinking it’s a game until I find you.”
A victim pleaded with the loan shark not to involve his family when he sent a message saying, “I’m going to talk to your mother now … And I’ll be back later … She has a nice car.”
Mavunga was arrested in January 2020 when IMLT officers, working in partnership with Doncaster Trading Standards and South Yorkshire Police, executed a warrant at his home and seized electronic devices.
The IMLT said it continued to operate illegally after the arrest, setting up a company called 24/7 Loans in February 2020.
He was then arrested again in March 2020.
Phone records showed Mavunga made a profit of £ 25,000 from a group of 35 borrowers and the outstanding loan balance at the time of his first arrest was £ 100,000.
Convicting Mavunga of illegal money lending offenses on Wednesday, June 30, Recorder Megan Rhys condemned his “appalling conduct taking advantage of personally and financially vulnerable people.”
The IMLT said the judge added that those who borrowed from Mavunga “were not borrowing large amounts for extravagant lifestyles but for basic needs” and were “understandably terrified” by threats made as their debts “increased beyond recognition”.
IMLT Chief Tony Quigley said: “Mavunga ran an organized, sophisticated and profitable illegal money lending business, where he paid a social media influencer to advertise his services online in order to gain more customers.
“He deliberately attacked the financially vulnerable and used cruel tactics to assert debts.
“This case demonstrates the misery caused by loan sharks and how clients of unregulated lenders are exposed to unscrupulous lending practices, such as threats, high interest rates and penalties.”
Mr Quigley urged anyone concerned about loan sharks to contact the IMLT’s 24-hour hotline on 0300 5552222 or the live chat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays on stoploansharks.co.uk.