A California office of the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday that a debt buyer was arrested on bank fraud charges related to a line of credit used to fund debt purchases. The arrest was made after an investigation by the FBI.
Michael T. Sahlbach of Granite Bay, Calif. was arrested Friday for six counts of bank and wire fraud, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced on behalf of the DOJ office for the Eastern District of California. A federal grand jury returned the sealed indictment Thursday; it was unsealed after his arrest.
According to court documents, Sahlbach owned and operated a debt collection business, National Credit Acceptance Inc., that purchases pools of consumer debts from other companies at a discount, and then attempts to collect on these debts from the consumer. In order to purchase the debt pools, Sahlbach opened a $25 million line of credit with First Bank to help support his business. The credit agreement required that if NCA wanted to buy a debt pool, it would provide 15 percent of the cost of that pool and 85 percent would be financed by First Bank.
According to the indictment, on several occasions from September to December of 2008, Sahlbach represented to First Bank that he had contracted with Lender Exchange to purchase debt pools. As a result of those representations, First Bank wired a total of $6.8 million to Lender Exchange. Sahlbach had not told First Bank that he actually controlled Lender Exchange. In fact, in August 2008, he had registered it with the California Secretary of State using the alias M. Hansen and used the address of a parking garage on Capitol Mall. If First Bank had known Sahlbach controlled Lender Exchange, it would not have extended credit.
The indictment alleges that Sahbach did not use the money to purchase debt pools from Lender Exchange, but transferred the funds to other bank accounts he controlled. He used those funds for business expenses and to provide the 15 percent contribution to receive additional funds from First Bank. Shortly after obtaining the final disbursement from First Bank, Sahlbach defaulted on the entire line of credit with First Bank.
If convicted, Sahlbach faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Assistant United States Attorney Jared C. Dolan is prosecuting the case.