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If you were a prisoner in upstate New York looking for help with your parole case, the NYS Prisoner Assistance Center and an attorney named Mario Vrendenburg might've looked like a good option. Over 400 other prisoners and their families thought the same, handing over more than $23,000 to have the firm handle administrative parole appeals and other legal matters.
The only problem, according to the New York Attorney General's office, is that there was no NYS Prisoner Assistance Center, Mario Vrendenburg was actually Antonia Barrone, and the fake firm was run out of Barrone's home. Now Barrone is facing at least three years in state prison.
According to a press release from the AG's office, Barrone ran the fraudulent Prisoner Assistance Center out of her residence for five years, duping prisoners and their families into believing the firm was staffed with attorneys and offered an array of legal services, including: "filing administrative and judicial appeals on behalf of inmates who were denied parole by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and representing inmates at administrative hearings and individuals facing criminal charges in various New York State courts."
"Practicing law without a license undermines our judicial system and puts vulnerable consumers in need of legal services at risk," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "My office is committed to protecting the legal rights of New Yorkers and will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to ensure that those who attempt to impair that right are held accountable." Barrone was sentenced to one and a half to three years in state prison on fraud charges.
Barrone is also facing one and a half to four years in prison on charges stemming from a high speed chase in March of 2016. Barrone allegedly fled from police, drove through a red light, struck another vehicle at over 90 mph, then a utility pole. Barrone had to be removed from the car by firefighters and hospitalized, and pleaded guilty to DWI and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle charges.
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