Niagara Falls Woman Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud For Her 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 Shauniqua Rodriguez, 40, of Niagara Falls, 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, Rodriguez conspired with others in a debt collection scheme that was spearheaded by co-defendant Joseph Ciffa.
Specifically, the defendant was an intermittent employee of the debt collection agency, which operated under various names, including Lakeside Mediations, Lincoln Mediation, Valentine Legal Mediation, First Point Mediation, State Filing and Legal Services, and Elite Services. Rodriguez placed telephone calls to “debtors” throughout the United States, using various fraudulent tactics and misrepresentations, including false representations as to her identity, false threats of arrest, and claims of criminal charges against the “debtors,” to induce the “debtors” to make payments. The “debtors” were often directed to other employees posing as attorneys and were provided with payment instructions, supposedly to settle their outstanding debts. In addition to making collection calls, the defendant also served as an informal trainer for other, less experienced employees.
Rodriguez and the employees she worked with and trained routinely collected on debts which they knew had already been satisfied, and collected money from “debtors” from whom they had already collected payment, who were deemed to be “easy targets.” “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 2015 and 2016, the debt collection scheme brought in more than $3,000,000.
Rodriguez was charged along with five other defendants. To date, four 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 28, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. before Judge Arcara.
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Updated March 22, 2019