The U.S. Attorney's office handed in a criminal complaint Friday in U.S. District Court charging Timothy E. Arent and Neil G. Wieczkowski, both of Buffalo, N.Y., with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Arent is also charged with bankruptcy fraud. The charge of mail fraud holds a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and fine of $250,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse aforementioned the complaint asserts that, from September 2005 through the present, Arent and Wieczkowski were engaged in a deceptive debt collection scheme in which they intimidated monetary payments from their victims by means of false pretenses, false impersonation and false representations. The complaint states that the victims were individuals who at one time or another owed some type of debt that had gone into collection status.
According to the office, Arent and Wieczkowski crookedly told their victims that the victims had failed to respond to summonses, which would result in their imminent arrest. It is further alleged that Arent and Wieczkowski told the victims that the only way they could avoid apprehension and detention by law enforcement was to make substantial monetary payments, usually in a matter of hours. The complaint also charges that the defendants tried to avoid detection by modifying the names of their businesses up to 18 times, and by using mail drops and "virtual offices." Deposits into accounts used by the defendants' businesses during the scheme were more than $8 million.
The complaint also alleges that Arent filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief in 2005, and that, during the proceedings, Arent fraudulently withheld information from the Bankruptcy Court. The complaint alleges that Arent failed to disclose to the Bankruptcy Court that he had bought a 4,700 square-foot residence in Buffalo worth $500,000 before the bankruptcy, and that, after filing for bankruptcy, he was actively engaged in debt collection work through two corporate entities. Arent's debts, as well as two civil judgments that had been filed against him concerning his pre-bankruptcy debt collection practices, were discharged by the bankruptcy court in 2006.
Arent and Wieczkowski appeared before Judge Scott Friday afternoon. Ms. Kresse moved for pretrial detention. Judge Scott granted the motion pending a detention hearing scheduled for October 6, 2009 at 2:00 pm EST.