A Salamanca man who operated phony debt restructuring businesses that defrauded about 20 area small businesses of about $1.2 million pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering charges, before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Sergiy Bezrukov, 35, formerly of Queens, faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison when sentenced July 24.
Prosecutors said Bezrukov and others sent solicitation letters under fictitious names, offering small businesses assistance with restructuring high interest loans. After the business owners agreed to hire Bezrukov's phony company, he and others would withdraw sums of money from the bank accounts of the businesses, but never repaid any loans on the businesses' behalf.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, neither Bezrukov nor others at the fraudulent company responded when the business owners attempted to make contact.
Prosecutors said law enforcement learned that Bezrukov intended to move his business out of Salamanca, prompting federal agents to seek search warrants executed at Bezrukov's office, residence and vehicle. Hidden in computer hard drives, agents found and seized about $393,000 cash, along with a check for $729,000. Other checks, gift cards and cash from Bezrukov's operation were seized, which totaled more than $1.4 million, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.