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Press Release

Kenmore Man Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud For His Role 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, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Maura K. O’Donnell, who is handling the case, stated that between January 2014 and February 2017, Collana conspired with others in a debt collection scheme that was spearheaded by co-defendant Joseph Ciffa.
Specifically, the defendant opened various corporations and bank accounts, used to process and facilitate payments used 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. With the knowledge and assistance of Collana, these debt collection agencies placed fraudulent telephone calls to individuals throughout the United States, in an attempt to collect money, and 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.”
In furtherance of this scheme, the employees of the debt collection agencies directed the individuals to make payment into or through bank accounts owned or operated by the defendant who then remitted the funds to the owners of the respective debt collection shops, in return for a percentage fee and/or salary.

In addition, Collana maintained an account with TLO, an online commercial database, 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.
Between February 2015 and December 2016, approximately $788,961 from fraudulent collection activities was deposited into the defendant’s accounts. 

Collana was charged along with five other defendants. To date, three have been convicted, including Joseph Ciffa who is awaiting sentencing.
Today’s plea is 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, Acting 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.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 13, 2019. At 12:30 p.m. before Judge Arcara.

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Updated February 28, 2019

Financial Fraud