A former Philadelphia Police officer has been charged with extortion for allegedly operating a loan-sharking business that took advantage of at least one fellow officer, reports the FBI.
Gary Cottrell, a former 14th District officer, allegedly made high-interest loans to Cheryl L. Stephens, an active 18th District officer. Cottrell, 46, has been charged with four counts of making an extortionate extension of credit, four counts of collecting an extension of credit by extortionate means, and eight counts of obstruction. Stephens, 46, has been charged with two counts of making false statements to the grand jury.
Cottrell ellegedly extended credit to borrowers in amounts ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. He charged the borrowers interest of $25 for every $100 borrowed for loans that had to be repaid in four weeks. The interest rate on these loans was substantially greater than the legally enforceable rate of 25% per year.
Cottrell used force and the threat of force to collect money from borrowers, according to the FBI. At times Cottrell allegedly sent threats of force to the borrowers via text messages.
If convicted, Cottrell faces up to 320 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $4 million fine, and a $1,600 special assessment. Stephens faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $500,000 fine, and a $200 special assessment.