SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Poway woman pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor count of operating a loan sharking business and was immediately sentenced to probation and ordered to repay her victims nearly $24,000 in restitution.
Lirio Lee Ramos, 56, loaned money to co-workers at exorbitant interest rates that exceeded 480 percent per year, according to the San Diego City Attorney's Office.
According to a criminal complaint, the illegal activities happened between May 2009 and December 2010.
Prosecutors said they received a complaint that Ramos was trying to enforce debts that appeared to carry unlawfully high interest rates.
The city attorney's investigation revealed that Ramos loaned money to financially strapped co-workers, many of whom were dealing with personal emergencies, between May 2009 and December 2010, charging a minimum of 20-30 percent interest that she compounded every two weeks.
According to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, Californians may make personal loans to friends and family members, who in turn may use those loans for personal, family or household purposes, but only at an annual interest rate of 7-10 percent.
Businesses engaged in the lending business, like banks and credit card companies, are regulated in other ways and are not subject to the 10 percent interest-per-year cap, Goldsmith said.