Maurice Sessum, the co-owner and chief financial officer of 4 Star Resolution, a Buffalo-based debt collection company, was sentenced Friday in Manhattan federal court to 90 months in prison for orchestrating a scheme to coerce thousands of victims across the country to overpay their debts by more than $31 million, officials said.
Sessum, 40, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud before U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Polk Failla, who imposed the sentence.
“Maurice Sessum was a driving force behind the largest criminal debt collection scheme ever prosecuted. Using outrageous threats and blatant lies to take advantage of vulnerable Americans, Sessum and his co-conspirators defrauded victims out of $31 million," Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement released on Friday.
Between 2010 and February 2015, Sessum served as co-owner, chief financial officer and chief operating officer of 4 Star, according to court proceedings.
Together with his co-defendant and co-owner, Travell Thomas, he oversaw four debt collection offices operated by 4 Star in Buffalo, as well as a team of managers and debt collectors.
Sessum and Thomas falsely inflated the balances of debts owed by consumers in 4 Star’s debt collection software so that debt collectors could collect more money from the victims than the victims actually owed, according to Kim's office on Friday.
Kim's office also stated that Sessum approved debt collection scripts that contained misrepresentations and instructed his collectors to make those misrepresentations to consumers over the telephone.
At the direction of Sessum and Thomas, the company's debt collectors, using aliases, attempted to trick and coerce the victims into paying millions of dollars in consumer debts through false statements and false threats, including that 4 Star was affiliated with local government and law enforcement agencies, that the consumers had committed criminal acts, and that if they did not pay the debt immediately, warrants would be issued for their arrest, according to Kim's office on Friday.
In total, from about January 2010 through November 2014, 4 Star collected more than $31 million, of which hundreds of thousands of dollars went to pay for Sessum's personal expenses, according to Kim's office.
In addition to his prison term, Sessum was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $31 million, Kim's office stated.
Twelve others associated with 4 Star have been charged and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The others are managers Jimmy Stokes, Tacoby Thomas, Heather Gasta, Mark Lavin, and John Salatino; and debt collectors Anthony Caba, Jessica Mann, Charles Starks, William Clark, Columbus Simmons, Michael Calandra, and Jennifer Sherk.
Thomas, Tacoby Thomas, Starks, Caba, Clark, Simmonds, Calandra, and Mann were sentenced to prison terms of 100 months, 70 months, 37 months, 36 months, 30 months, 28 months, 15 months, and one year and one day, respectively, officials said. The sentencing of the other defendants who have pleaded guilty is pending.