BUFFALO — Federal prosecutors say Sergiy Bezrukov’s fraudulent debt restructuring business, which operated out of Salamanca, cost its victims more than just money.
Those who paid Bezrukov continue to suffer emotional havoc from bankruptcies, judgments and damage to their credit history, according to prosecutors, noting that some have had their marriages shattered.
One victim, writing to the judge as part of Bezrukov’s sentencing, said, “It was so tempting to just end my life, but I couldn’t do it.”
Bezrukov, 35, of Salamanca, was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to 66 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The sentence, handed down by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Vilardo, also mandated Bezrukov pay restitution totaling $1.23 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wei Xiang and Mary Clare Kane said Bezrukov — often using the alias “Thomas Paris” of “Corporate Restructure, Inc.” — solicited small businesses across the U.S. that were operating with merchant cash advances to restructure their debt with him.
Bezrukov, who also went by aliases like Chris Riley and John Butler, fraudulently induced the businesses to stop paying their original obligations, and to pay him instead, according to the prosecutors.
In total, Bezrukov defrauded approximately 200 victims out of more than $1.2 million, prosecutors said.
During the course of its investigation, law enforcement learned Bezrukov was planning to move his business out of Salamanca. As a result, federal search warrants were executed on Bezrukov’s office, home, vehicle and person.
Officers found and seized approximately $393,000 in cash hidden in computer hard drives. Later, a check for $729,000 dollars was seized. Other checks, gift cards and quantities of cash from Bezrukov’s operation were also seized.
In total, more than $1.4 million was seized.
Bezrukov was first indicted in May 2017. He eventually pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In announcing Bezrukov’s sentencing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted the “financial and emotional havoc” Bezrukov wreaked on the victims, some of whom ran family-owned and operated small businesses.
Bezrukov’s co-defendants Mark Farnham, Dustin Walker and Vanessa Cardona were previously convicted and sentenced. Farnham was sentenced to time served of nine months, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office has not reported Walker and Cardona’s sentencing details.
Xiang and Kane credited the work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the IRS and Homeland Security Investigations.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)