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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Buffalo Woman Pleads For Her Role In A Fraudulent Debt Collection Scheme

CONTACT:  Barbara Burns
PHONE:      (716) 843-5817
FAX #:         (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Judi Sylvia, 33, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie P. Grisanti, who is handling the case, stated that between May 2015 and October 2015, the defendant, her brother Shawn Sylvia, and others conspired to obtain money fraudulently from Elavon, a merchant processing company. As part of the conspiracy, Judi and Shawn Sylvia established Pasquale and Associates, LLC.

In May 2015, Judi Sylvia signed a business certificate which stated that she was “conducting or transacting business” under the name of Pasquale and Associates, LLC and she opened a bank account at First Niagara Bank in the name of Pasquale and Associates, LLC for the receipt of wired funds from Elavon. In addition, Shawn Sylvia opened a merchant account with Elavon, to process credit card payments for money collected through Pasquale and Associates, LLC. When creating the merchant account, Shawn Sylvia made false representations to Elavon claiming that Pasquale and Associates, LLC was engaged in legal services and failed to disclose that the company was actually a debt collection agency engaging in unlawful and unfair practices to collect on debt not owed. If Elavon had known that Pasquale and Associates, LLC was engaging in debt collection, Elavon would not have agreed to collect payments on behalf of the business because of the high likelihood of chargebacks to Elavon and the risk that Elavon would be unable to recoup chargebacks and would lose money.

The defendant and others used strong-arm tactics including threats of arrest, jail, and lawsuits to convince victims to make payments toward what they were told were outstanding debts. Elavon then processed the fraudulent transactions on the individuals’ credit cards and sent the funds to Pasquale and Associates LLC’s First Niagara Bank account at which time Judi Sylvia immediately withdrew the funds. When Elavon learned that the credit card transactions were fraudulent, Elavon was required to refund the charges.  Because the money had already been withdrawn from Pasquale and Associates LLC’s First Niagara Bank account, attempts to recover the chargebacks were unsuccessful.

Judi and Shawn Sylvia and others obtained fraudulently a total of $56,615 from Elavon and five other victims. 

Shawn Sylvia was previously convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 17, 2018, at 12:30 before Judge Arcara.

Updated May 11, 2018