A total of £120,000 in cash was seized and three people arrested in a series of dawn raids targeting suspected loan sharks across the North East.
Police seized the money, as well as a number of computers, telephones and financial documents during the early morning raids aiming to crack those involved in illegal money lending.
Two men aged 66 and 53 and a 68-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of engaging in an act requiring a licence. All have been bailed pending further inquiries.
Officers swooped on eight addresses in Newcastle, County Durham and Sunderland, targeting those involved in organised crime.
Northumbria Police teamed up with the regional asset recovery team (RART) and the England illegal money lending team on Tuesday.
Cannabis plants, counterfeit goods and a large quantity of fireworks were also seized in the raids.
Detective Inspector Phil Bond, from Northumbria Police’s crime department, said: “Northumbria Police is aware that illegal money lending does take place, particularly in this tough financial climate. Illegal money lenders target those people in the community who are vulnerable and generate a spiral of debt which victims can’t get out of.
“We are determined, with our partners, to disrupt this activity and put loan sharks out of business. I hope today’s action demonstrates just that.
“Money is also the driving force for organised crime and criminals resort to a range of tactics to try to benefit from their ill-gotten gains.
“With partner agencies, we will investigate and uncover those arrangements, put criminals before the courts and ultimately seek to seize their criminal assets.”
Police raided addresses in Breamish Street, Byker, Newcastle; Morson Avenue, Crook, County Durham; and North View, Riverdale, Devon Drive, Harrow Square, Howe Square and Cranberry Road, all Sunderland.
Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “Northumbria Police will continue to do everything within their power to crack down on illegal money lending. We will work in partnership with local authorities to help residents who are affected by those committing this crime.”
Chief Superintendent Kay Blyth, Sunderland area commander, added: “This joint activity shows our commitment to tackling those people believed to be causing most harm in our communities by disrupting and dismantling their activities.
“As always, we would ask the public to contact us with any concerns they have in their neighbourhoods so we can seek to take positive action.”
We would ask the public to contact us with any concerns they have in their neighbourhoods