A loan shark by any other name is still a loan shark. That's what law enforcement authorities in Atlantic City charged in court this week when they indicted two pawnbrokers lending money at the astounding rates of 1,000-3,600 percent a year - mostly to gamblers who had lost at the nearby casinos.
According to one investigator at the Atlantic County prosecutor's office, the scam worked this way: People pawned jewelry or other items of value for about half their value, the usual practice at many pawn shops. But in these cases, the pawnbrokers far exceeded the interest rate allowed by law. In one instance, an undercover agent was charged an interest rate that amounted to a whopping 3,640 percent a year.
Authorities believe both pawnshops are tied to organized crime figures who are at least partly behind the substantial overall increase in loansharking in ''Las Vegas East'' this year.