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Niagara Falls woman pleads guilty in debt collection scheme

STAFF REPORTS


BUFFALO -- Debbie Seright, 52, of Niagara Falls, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and filing a false tax return before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charges carry 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 Seright managed supposed debt collection agencies, which operated under various names, including Lakeside Mediations, Lincoln Mediation, Valentine Legal Mediation, First Point Mediation, State Filing and Legal Services and Elite Services. As a manager, the defendant directed and trained other employees to engage in fraudulent debt collection practices.  Specifically, Seright and the employees she managed placed telephone calls to "debtors" throughout the United States and, in an effort to induce the "debtors" to make payments, used various fraudulent tactics, including falsely representing their identities, falsely threatening to arrest them, and claiming the existence of criminal charges against the "debtors.” The defendant and employees also routinely collected on debts which they knew had already been satisfied, and collected money from "debtors" from whom they had already collected payment, 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 July 2015 and December 2016, the section of the debt collection operation Seright participated in collected approximately $1,154,213.

The plea is the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special-Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James D. Robnett; and the United States Postal Service Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector-in-Charge Raymond Moss;

Sentencing is scheduled for July 24, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. before Judge Arcara.