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Woman, 33, pleads guilty in phony debt collection scheme

A Buffalo woman who admitted running a phony debt collection operation with her brother faces a maximum 20 years in prison when she is sentenced Aug. 17, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Judi Sylvia, 33, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said that between May and October 2015, Judi Sylvia and her brother, Shawn Sylvia, along with others, conspired to fraudulently obtain money from a merchant processing company called Elavon.

Judi and Shawn Sylvia established a phony limited liability company called Pasquale and Associates. Prosecutors said Judi Sylvia signed a business certificate that she was transacting business under the LLC. She opened a bank account at First Niagara Bank under the name of the phony company to get funds wired from Elavon.

Shawn Sylvia opened a merchant account with Elavon to process credit card payments collected through Pasquale and Associates.

Prosecutors said Shawn Sylvia falsely claimed to Elavon that Pasquale and Associates was engaged in legal services. What he did not disclose is that the company was a debt collection agency to collect money from individuals on debts they didn't owe.

Elavon wound up collecting $56,615 in fraudulently obtained payments on behalf of the phony business, prosecutors said.

Shawn Sylvia was convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

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