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Press Release

Kenmore Man And Niagara Falls Woman Sentenced For Their Roles in Debt Collection Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

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

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Carmelo Collana, 49, of Kenmore, NY, and Debbie Seright, 52, of Niagara Falls, NY, who were each convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in a debt collection scheme, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to serve 12 months and 24 months in prison respectively.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura K. O’Donnell, who is handling the case, stated that between January 2014 and February 2017, Collana and Seright conspired with others in a debt collection scheme that was spearheaded by co-defendant Joseph Ciffa.  Specifically, defendant Collana helped facilitate Ciffa’s debt collection scheme, by opening various corporations and bank accounts which were used to process and transfer victim payments brought in by debt collection agencies operating under various names, including Lakeside Mediations, Lincoln Mediation, Valentine Legal Mediation, First Point Mediation, State Filing and Legal Services and Elite Services.  In addition, Collana maintained an account with TLO, an online commercial database, which was used to gather personal information as to individuals, such as address, employer, and date of birth. The defendant provided employees of the debt collection agencies with access to TLO, in order to assist the employees in contacting and collecting from the individuals to whom they placed calls. Collana also at times provided debt files to employees of the various debt collection agencies.

Seright played a management role within Ciffa’s debt collection scheme, in that she oversaw a group of employees who placed fraudulent telephone calls in an attempt to collect money to individuals throughout the United States.  The employees utilized fraudulent tactics, including false threats of arrest, false claims that the callers/collectors were attorneys, and false claims as to criminal charges pending against the “debtors.” The defendant and employees also routinely collected on debts which they knew had already been satisfied, and collected money from "debtors" that were characterized as “easy targets” from whom they had already collected payment.  "Debtors" were instructed to make payment to the various debt collection businesses through various means, including MoneyGram payments, bank wire transfers, and debit/credit card payments.

Between July 2015 and December 2016, the section of the debt collection operation in which Seright participated collected approximately $1,154,213.

Between February 2015 and December 2016, approximately $788,961 from fraudulent collection activities was deposited into bank accounts opened and used by defendant Collana to funnel fraud proceeds back to Ciffa and his debt collection scheme. 

Collana and Seright were charged along with four other codefendants. To date, all six defendants charged, including Joseph Ciffa, have been convicted. Ciffa is awaiting sentencing.

The sentencings are the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special-Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Jonathan D. Larsen, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Boston Division Inspector-in-Charge Joseph W. Cronin.

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Updated June 17, 2019

Financial Fraud