A man accused of running an illegal collection business pleaded guilty Friday to felony charges of mail fraud and tax evasion at federal court.

Neil G. Wieczkowski, 42, of Buffalo, N.Y., was accused of operating an illegal collection agency that scared people by telling them they owed money, and threatening to have them arrested at work, in front of their employers and co-workers. He was arrested in October 2009 after an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and criminal agents from the Internal Revenue Service.

Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse said Wieczkowski and Timothy G. Arent, 38, also of Buffalo, over three years deposited approximately $6.8 million in checks written by more than 1,000 victims, for payment of fictitious debt. [Wieczkowski] received more than $750,000 from Arent, which funds he used to purchase luxury automobiles, antiques and jewelry, according to prosecutors.

Wieczkowski previously admitted that he and Arent paid employees at another Buffalo collection firm thousands of dollars to steal lists of debtor names and contact information from their employer. Wieczkowski faces a prison term of at least five years and three months. Sentencing is scheduled for April 26.

Arent, who sometimes pretended to be an attorney when he called debtors. Charges against him are still pending, but he is scheduled to plead guilty this week. Both defendants have denied the allegations when they were charged after a lengthy federal probe.

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