AN 83-year-old loan shark who preyed on “vulnerable people” and would threaten them if they missed repayments has been ordered to repay £173,000.

Tabitha Richardson took advantage of her victims and would charge them 40 per cent interest on 28-week long loans.

She was handed a suspended prison sentence last August after she was convicted of lending money illegally at “extortionate” rates for 10 years.

The pensioner was back at Cardiff Crown Court to face a proceeds of crime hearing.

Judge Hywel James was told the defendant, of Nash Road, has £173,195.92 in available assets which can be seized by the authorities.

Of that amount, her victims will receive compensation totalling £35,285.

Barry And District News: Tabitha Richardson leaving Cardiff Crown Court last year. Picture: Cardiff council

During her sentencing hearing, prosecutor Alex Greenwood said the complainants had borrowed £126,020 from her.

She sent one male victim who had missed a repayment a text which read: “Just ring me, you know I can find you" and, "You have got to speak to me and let me know what's going on before I come looking for you".

The court heard the lending model she used was copied from her previous employer which offered legal loans.

She pleaded guilty to engaging in activity requiring a licence when not a licensee, carry on a regulated activity when not an authorised/exempt person and money laundering.

Richardson, of Newport, had no previous convictions.

Andrew Kendall representing her said his client wanted to apologise to her victims.

The judge, Recorder Ben Blackmore, told the pensioner she had come within “a whisker” of going to prison.

She was jailed for two years but that sentence was suspended for two years.

A spokesperson for the Shared Regulatory Services said, “This is a case where an 83-year-old woman preyed on vulnerable people to extort money from them through illegal lending, charging £400 interest on every £1,000 she leant.

“Loan sharks are often stereotypically portrayed as hard men wielding baseball bats, but Tabitha Richardson is female and despite her age, was menacing to her victims as well, threatening them when they did not pay their debt, often in the full knowledge that her victims were unable to pay.

“Now that the sentence is over, SRS will proceed with a proceeds of crime hearing to try to recover as much money as possible for her victims.

“If anyone in Wales is a victim of a loan shark, please get in touch with Stop Loan Sharks Wales by calling 0300 123 33 11.

“There is a dedicated team that will support victims of loan sharks, to get them out of their situation, as well as investigate these crimes that take place.”