A Buffalo-area man whose “niche” in the collections industry was collecting on debts that he knew had already been paid has pleaded guilty to a pair of felonies and will face up to eight years in prison when he is sentenced next month.
Joe Ciffa has already been barred from engaging in collections work and is also facing charges from the Federal Trade Commission in a separate scam.
Prosecutors allege that the intimidation and coercion tactics used by Ciffa and his team netted $22 million in fraudulent collection payments during a four-year period that ended in 2015. Ciffa’s primary method of operation was to pose as a law enforcement officer and to threaten arrest if a payment was not made.
As part of his plea agreement, Ciffa also noted that he had employees pose as lawyers and threaten arrest and imprisonment if payments were not made. The process of going back and trying to get a payment on a debt that had already been paid became so commonplace that the team created a name for it: re-dos.
Ciffa also pleaded guilty to falsifying a tax return in order to receive Medicaid benefits for his family.