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BUFFALO — A Lockport has been sentenced, in U.S. District Court in Buffalo for her role in a debt collection scheme.

District Court Judge Richard Arcara handed down a sentence of 12 months in prison to Shauniqua Rodriguez, 41, for her conviction on a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors said that Rodriguez, between January 2014 and February 2017, conspired with others in a debt collection scheme that was spearheaded by her co-defendant Joseph Ciffa.

Rodriguez was described by prosecutors as "an intermittent employee of (Ciffa's) debt collection agency" which operated under various names, including Lakeside Mediations, Lincoln Mediation, Valentine Legal Mediation, First Point Mediation, State Filing and Legal Services, and Elite Services.

According to prosecutors, Rodriguez would place phone calls to alleged debtors throughout the United States, using various fraudulent tactics and misrepresentations, including falsely representing her identity, threatening arrest and fabricating criminal charges for coerce the individuals into making payments.

The alleged debtors were often directed to other employees, posing as attorneys, and were provided with payment instructions, to settle fictitious debts. In addition to making collection calls, Rodriguez also served as an informal trainer for other, less experienced employees.

Rodriguez and the employees she worked with and trained routinely collected on debts which they knew had already been satisfied.  They would also target individuals from whom they had previously collected payments, because they were deemed to be “easy targets."

Between 2015 and 2016, prosecutors said the debt collection scheme brought in more than $3 million.

Rodriguez is one of five defendants to be convicted in this case, and the third to be sentenced.

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