An Albany woman who stole more than $23,000 from over 400 New Yorkers by running a fake law firm is heading to state prison.
Antonia Barrone was sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree scheme to defraud. She was ordered to pay a $244,500 penalty and $23,427.70 in restitution.
According to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Barrone operated the NYS Prisoner Assistance Center and advertised herself as an attorney assisting prison inmates and their families with parole matters.
However, Schneiderman's investigation revealed that Barrone isn't a licensed attorney and her company did not employ any lawyers.
Barrone's clients were located across the state. She had customers in several counties, including Cayuga. When Schneiderman announced her guilty plea in October, he credited the state Board of Parole counsel's office for discovering the scheme.
"Deceiving vulnerable New Yorkers into paying for unlicensed legal services is reprehensible, costing them thousands each and jeopardizing their rights," Schneiderman said in a statement. "My office won't hesitate to prosecute those who defraud New Yorkers by practicing without a license."
Prior to the criminal investigation, the attorney general's Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit against Barrone in May accusing her of defrauding clients by claiming she was a practicing attorney.
In August, a judge ordered Barrone to pay nearly $270,000 in penalties and restitution. She was also prohibited from practicing law in New York and advertising legal services.
Another division of the state attorney general's office, the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, led the criminal investigation which found Barrone filed legal documents with forged signatures and fake notary stamps over nearly a five-year period. She also wrote letters for her clients using the letterhead of a fake law firm, "Stacchini & Barrone, Attorneys at Law."
The firm included the name of a licensed attorney who wasn't aware of Barrone's conduct.
Barrone's conviction is her second in the last year. In 2016, she was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison on charges stemming from a high-speed chase.
With her recent sentence, she will serve a combined 2 5/6 to 7 years in state prison.