BUFFALO, N.Y. — A western New York man has admitted running a debt-collection operation that strong-armed victims into paying non-existent debts.

Federal prosecutors say 35-year-old Shawn Sylvia, of Buffalo, faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Investigators say Sylvia and associates called eight victims on the phone and threatened them with arrest, jail and lawsuits to convince them to make payments on what they said were outstanding debts. The victims wired money into bank accounts controlled by Sylvia or the others.

The operation collected more than $340,000 between 2013 and August 2017.

Sylvia is scheduled to be sentenced April 3.

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