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Fourth person convicted in debt collection scheme

Timothy E. Arent, 38, of Buffalo, has pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny to mail fraud and tax evasion charges.

Arent faces up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse, who is handling the case, said that from October 2006 through October 2009, Arent and his partner, Neil G. Wieczkowski, engaged in a fraudulent debt collection scheme. The two illegally purchased debtor information from two former employees of Capital Management Services, a Buffalo debt collection business, and thereafter used the information to coerce the victims into paying fictitious debt.

The former employees, Thomas Rice and Andrew Jon Pytlewski, have pleaded guilty to stealing the debtor information and are awaiting sentencing in February. Neil Wieczkowski, who pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to mail fraud and tax evasion, will be sentenced in April.

In the Arent matter, Kresse said the government’s evidence revealed that he claimed to be a law enforcement officer able to arrest people if they did not immediately make a substantial payment on the alleged debt owed.

During a three year period, Arent and Wieczkowski received approximately $6.8 million in checks written by more than 1,000 victims from across the country. The scheme netted Arent almost $5.7 million.

As part of his guilty plea, Arent also admitted that from 2005 through 2008, he received more than $2.1 million in income on which he failed to pay taxes, resulting in a tax loss of approximately $780,000. Sentencing is scheduled for April 29.