Sergiy Bezrukov used aliases, different company names and a wide variety of banks to cheat more than 250 small businesses out of what could be nearly a half million dollars, prosecutors said Monday.
Bezrukov, who lives in Salamanca, appeared in Buffalo federal court to face allegations that he and at least two others operated a scheme that, in return for a fee, falsely promised financial relief to companies with high-interest loans.
Prosecutors said the mail fraud charges also stem from evidence discovered during a search of three locations in Buffalo and Salamanca.
"We uncovered $400,000 in cash in just two days," said Assistant U. S. Attorney Trini E. Ross.
A citizen of both the United States and the Ukraine, Bezrukov is accused of mailing fraudulent solicitations to small business owners with high-interest, short-term loans.
In one case, according to court records, a small business owner was promised a 75 percent reduction in her debt in just 48 hours.
The offer from Corporate Restructure Inc., which investigators claim is one of Bezrukov's companies, asked for a payment of $1,250 a week for four weeks in return for its debt-reduction services.
Ross said the scheme had been operating for at least two years and is believed to have victimized at least 250 small business owners. It's not certain how many of the victims are local companies.
"We know he moved his operation from the New York City-New Jersey area to Western New York over the last year or so," Ross told U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr.
Defense lawyer Scott F. Riordan, who is representing Bezrukov, declined to comment on the allegations.
Two other men - Dustin Walker of Buffalo and Mark Farnham of Salamanca - also are charged in the case.
The charges against all three men are the result of investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service.