BUFFALO — A Salamanca man has pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his fraudulent debt restructuring business that reportedly scammed 200 people out of $1.2 million.
Sergiy Bezrukov, 35, of Salamanca and formerly of Queens, pleaded guilty March 18 in U.S. District Court in Buffalo to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
According to assistant U.S. attorneys Stephanie Lamarque, Wei Xiang and Mary Clare Kane, who are handling the case, Bezrukov opened two offices in Western New York to operate fraudulent debt restructuring businesses that ultimately defrauded approximately 200 victims out of approximately $1.2 million.
Prosecutors said Bezrukov and others sent solicitation letters under various fictitious names, offering to assist small businesses with restructuring high interest loans.
After the small business owners agreed to hire him and his company, Bezrukov and others would withdraw sums of money from the bank accounts of the small businesses, but never repaid any loans on their behalf, according to prosecutors.
When the small business owners attempted to contact the defendant or others at the fraudulent company, they would receive no response, prosecutors said.
During the investigation of Bezrukov’s operation in Salamanca, law enforcement officers learned he 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.
Prosecutors said officers found and seized approximately $393,000 in cash hidden in computer hard drives, and later found a check for $729,000. Other checks, gift cards and quantities of cash were also found.
In total, officers reportedly seized more than $1.4 million from Bezrukov.
Bezrukov and a co-defendant, Mark Farnham, were originally indicted on a 54-count superseding indictment of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering in August 2017.
Farnham, 25, of Salamanca was previously convicted and is awaiting sentencing.
Bezrukov’s plea is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the IRS and Homeland Security Investigations.
His sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 24 before Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)