A convicted loan shark who charged people up to 8,000 per cent interest has been found hanged in his prison cell.
Mark Washington Johnson (39), who was serving nearly four years in jail for blackmail, was found dead by staff at Birmingham Prison yesterday morning.
Johnson was jailed for three years and nine months in July after pleading guilty to carrying on a consumer credit business without a licence between April 2002 and October 2004.
He also admitted three counts of blackmail, one of possessing criminal property, another of attempted deception in relation to a mortgage application, and a further charge of unlawfully obtaining a disability benefit book.
Birmingham Crown Court heard how Johnson, of Hall Green, Birmingham, took social security benefit books or National Insurance numbers as " security" for the unauthorised loans and piled default charges on to his clients for missed payments - sometimes charging them up to 8,000 per cent in interest.
A Home Office spokeswoman said last night: "Mark Washington Johnson was discovered by staff this morning. He was confirmed dead at 8.20am."
An investigation will be carried out by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, she added.
Sentencing Johnson in July, Recorder Andrew Tidbury told him he had profited at the expense of some of the most unfortunate and needy members of society.
"Your business inevitably preyed on the weakest members of the community. These were people who had no one else who would lend them money," he said.