Joe Ryan was an old boyfriend of Emma's when she was fifteen; Sean described Joe as the love of Emma's life. However, the relationship ended when Joe went off to university and married a nurse called Kate. He went on to become a primary school teacher in Birmingham, even having a son called Ben, but Kate died of a brain tumour shortly after they bought their dream house.
Although the school granted him six months' compassionate leave to cope with the loss, the time off work left him significantly behind on his mortage, forcing him to borrow money from the company 'Do$h4You' after seeing their ad on the television, misreading the fine print about the repayment rate and leaving him owing the company over £30 000, with the interest rapidly increasing.
While visiting a debt advisor in London, Joe ran into Emma while she was attempting a short con involving them tricking a man into paying them a great deal of money for a cheap watch, learning about his financial troubles and convincing the rest of the gang to carry out a con on Do$h4You manager Georgina Althorp. Having conned Althorp, the team arranged for Do$h4You to cover Joe's debt, claiming that the company lost a major case regarding the amount of interest they charged and that the money Joe had already paid was sufficient.
However, although still attracted to Joe, Emma decided not to restart the relationship when Joe received an excess amount of money when he received a repayment after paying too much interest, Joe concluding that there was nothing wrong from benefiting from a mistake while Emma saw it as dishonest (Unaware that Mickey had planted the excess money to make a point to Emma).