Philly cop, ex-cop charged in loan-sharking scheme

Former Philadelphia police officer Gary Cottrell (left) and active officer Cheryl Stephens have been charged in connection with a loan-sharking scheme.

Cheryl L. Stephens faces charges of making false statements and has been suspended with intent to dismiss.

A Philadelphia police officer and a former cop have been charged in an alleged loan-sharking scheme.

Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Gary Cottrell, a former officer in the 14th District, was involved in an extortion scheme that involved making high-interest loans to others, including 46-year-old Cheryl L. Stephens, an active 18th District officer.

An indictment against the pair was unsealed today.

The indictment says that Cottrell, who was a police officer from December 1996 to June 2011, ran a business in which he extended credit, in amounts ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, to borrowers.

He required borrowers to repay the amount owed, plus interest. That interest rate, according to prosecutors, was $25 for each $100 borrowed, and had to be repaid within in four weeks.

The interest rate on Cottrell's loans was higher than the legally enforceable rate of 25 percent per annum, prosecutors say.

The indictment alleges that Cottrell would use force and threats of force to collect money.

Stephens is accused of falsely testifying that Cottrell didn't charge her interest on a loan and didn't tell her to deny paying interest when she spoke with law enforcement officials.

Cottrell faces charges of making an extortionate extension of credit, collecting an extension of credit by extortionate means and obstruction.

Stephens faces charges of making false statements. The 10-year veteran has been suspended with intent to dismiss, the police department said.

Separately, Cottrell is also facing allegations of participating in an insurance-fraud scheme that cheated insurers out of millions of dollars during a four-year span.

In that case, he is accused of acting as a "wreck chaser," traveling around Philadelphia to refer accident victims to a collision center, and pocketed kickbacks from that center.

Records show that he is slated to go to trial in December in that case.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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