Alan Ceccarelli preyed on people in debt.
He also made money doing it.
The Buffalo man and former owner of a debt collection business was sentenced Wednesday to 78 months in prison for his lead role in a scheme that targeted people in debt and, sometimes, targeted people without real debts.
Ceccarelli, 31, had previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Federal prosecutors claim he and coerced victims throughout the United States into paying debts they owed or, in some cases, didn't owe by using false statements and threats.
They say Ceccarelli also relied on aliases, including Steve Jantrowski, Daniel Hamilton and Scott Richmond, and went so far as to use “collectors” who falsely posed as government and law enforcement officials.
"Financial scams like the one perpetrated by Ceccarelli have devastating long-term effects on the victims, many of whom were already under financial hardship,” James C. Spero, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Buffalo, said in a statement.
The grand jury indictment against Ceccarelli accused him of using “spoofing,” a collection technique that makes it appear to victims that the collector’s telephone call originated from a police department or the office of a government official or local private attorney.
In some instances, Ceccarelli’s collectors would tell people they were calling from a location near the victim’s home or business and would be arriving there to serve the victim with court papers unless the victim made an immediate payment, prosecutors said.
The indictment also claims Ceccarelli preyed on individuals who had filed bankruptcy and sometimes would pose as a representative of the victim’s bankruptcy lawyer.
His debt collection business was known by multiple names, including G&B Check Services, Check & Arbitration Services, Dudley & Associates, National Check Services and Franklin & Ruggiero.
Ceccarelli, who pointed to a decade-long addiction to cocaine, heroin and crack cocaine as the motivation for his crimes, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford.
Ceccarelli’s sentence is the result of a prosecution by Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross, and an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division and the Buffalo Police Department.