In this article the "usury market" is analysed as a social system and typical patterns of relationship between usurers and their victims are identified. Drawn from crime files of the Milan public attorney's office, the basic characteristics of both supply and demand of illegal credit are described, and the shortcomings of standard economic explanations are highlighted. Two results deserve special attention. Firstly, usurers appear to be part of rather complex organisations that operate closely with legal financial institutions. Secondly, predation and violence, which shape common sense representations of usury, co-exist with usurer-victim relationships, which are characterised by forms of reciprocity and exchange, especially when both actors share similar crime backgrounds.