A Poway woman pleaded guilty in court Thursday to a loan sharking scheme she offered to her financially-strapped co-workers.
The scheme was exposed in a Kearny Mesa small claims court after Lirio Ramos began trying to enforce debts which carried unlawfully high interest rates.
The complaint was handed off to San Diego's Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit, which investigated Ramos.
The City Attorney's office found Ramos had been offering short-term, high-interest loans to her financially-strapped co-workers, some of whom were dealing with personal emergencies.
Ramos is accused of charging a minimum of 20 to 30 percent interest on the loans. She compounded the loans every two weeks.
If extended over a year, this type of loan -- sometimes known in California as "5/6 loans" -- could equate to more than 480 percent interest, according to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
"Taking advantage of someone for illegal financial gain needs to be stopped," Goldsmith said in a statement. "We will prosecute those involved in loan sharking and charging a high rate of interest on a loan."
Personal loans are legal as long as the annual interest rate is between 7 and 10 percent.
For more information or help, visit the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit's website.