Officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) have welcomed the sentence handed down to Thomas Porter at Antrim Crown Court today, Thursday 5 May.
Porter, aged 46, was sentenced to 18 months for money lending and drug dealing – nine months to be served in custody and nine months on licence.
In May 2017 police carried out the search of a property in Carrickfergus as part of an investigation into suspected criminality linked to the West Belfast UDA.
Items seized revealed the offer of controlled drugs, the offer of loans and subsequent demands for the payment of loans.
The investigation showed that the defendant added a hefty interest rate to each loan, with added fines and violence threatened in cases of missed payment.
Detective Chief Inspector Kelly from the Police Service said: "Partners within the PCTF remain committed to tackling the organised criminality of those who hide under the banner of a paramilitary organisation.
“We will continue to pursue those who cause real harm to their own communities through the distribution and supply of illicit drugs.
“Along with our partners, we’re focused on highlighting and addressing how paramilitary groups use illegal money lending as a means to control and exploit vulnerable people. The coercion that comes with illegal money lending means that it’s common for victims to feel that they have no-one to turn to.
“I’m taking this opportunity to ask anyone who is, or has been, a victim of illegal money lending to contact police on 101. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
A public awareness campaign ‘Ending the Harm’ focuses on the harm caused by illegal money lending. This campaign is part of the Northern Ireland Executive Programme to Tackle Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime, which involves Government Departments, law enforcement agencies, local councils and community and voluntary sectors working together to break the cycle of violence and prevent yet another generation of young people from being exploited and abused by paramilitaries.
To find out where victims can go for support, please visit the campaign website www.endingtheharm.com