A GIANT BUFFALO ‘BILL’: Fake Debt Settlement Company Allegedly Defrauded Merchants, Business Lenders and MCA Companies Out of Lots of Cash
Several companies controlled by an alleged fraudster run out of western New York, promised merchants they could settle MCA agreements and alternative business loans for cheap.
Sergiy Bezrukov AKA John Butler AKA Thomas Paris AKA Christopher Riley was arrested last week after being charged with mail fraud. A joint investigation between the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS and the US Postal Inspection Service concluded that he scammed more than 100 victims and caused damages in excess of over $500,000.
“The victims and losses are the direct result of Bezrukov’s scheme involving the mailing of thousands of fraudulent solicitations to vulnerable small business owners, luring them into paying him for a service he never intended to provide, and resulting in hundreds of defaulted loans, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” an affidavit signed by Postal Inspector Clinton E. Homer states.
$400,000 in hidden cash was seized by investigators. The prosecution argued he was a great flight risk after it was discovered Bezrukov has dual Ukranian citizenship and that an identical copy of his US passport exists which he claims is missing and cannot forfeit. That combined with his propensity to use fake aliases resulted in his bail being denied and his being detained pending trial.
Bezrukov is currently being charged with mail fraud.
Records, surveillance and witness interviews confirmed that he paid to have 75,000 mailings sent out to advertise his service just between the first week of August and the first week of October 2016. Those services allegedly included an offer to reduce a small business owner’s short term debt by as much as 75% in just 6 to 12 hours.
One small business owner said that after signing up, they were directed to send an initial $1,250 to Corporate Restructure, Inc. via wire transfer. It was suspicious bank activity like this that would ultimately play a role in the scheme unraveling.
“The Postal Inspection Service received a referral from a fraud investigator for Citizens Banks related to multiple accounts with suspicious activity,” Federal Agent Homer wrote in his affidavit.
Bezrukov is alleged to have used over 30 different company names, numerous banks, post office boxes, UPS Store boxes, and employees in an effort to ensure the success of his scheme, and in an effort to hide his true identity and location of operations. Most of the locations were in upstate New York, specifically in Salamanca, Jamestown, Irving, West Seneca, Cheektowaga, Buffalo and Sanborn.
Two other individuals were also charged in connection with the activity, Mark Farnham of Buffalo and Dustin Walker of Salamanca. Farnham is referred to as the Vice President of Bezrukov’s company, Corporate Restructure, Inc., while Walker was the Chief of Security. They are alleged to have committed bank fraud. More than $125,000 was deposited in their accounts just between June 21st and August 12th of this year.
Bezrukov himself was no stranger to alternative business finance. Numerous complaints online date back to his role in a company known as SBC Telecom Consulting, a purported business funding company that was also referenced in the affidavit attached to the criminal complaint against him.
Even in that business, Bezrukov who went by alias John Butler at the time, was known for being outrageous. Last year, shortly before he ventured into the alleged debt settlement scheme, his company filed a $45 million lawsuit against a former sales rep for among other similar claims, allegedly violating a non-compete agreement.
The Buffalo News reports that Bezrukov is being represented in his criminal case by Scott F. Riordan, who declined to comment on the allegations.Last modified: July 1, 2021
Sean Murray is the President and Chief Editor of deBanked and the founder of the Broker Fair Conference. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter. You can view all future deBanked events here.