February 19, 2013
Department Issues Cease and Desist Order Against Parole System Scammer; Requires Restitution to Victims
HARTFORD, February 19 -- Citing violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, the Department of Consumer Protection has ordered a Connecticut man to stop cheating prison inmates and their families with false promises of parole and advocacy services. In addition to prohibiting Christopher C. Shuckra and his companies from engaging in any similar business in the future, the Department’s order requires restitution to 28 victims, Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said today.
Shuckra, whose last known address was in Hartford, was doing business as Innovative Sentencing Solutions, LLC since 2009 and Parole Advocates since 2012. Both companies advertised and offered parole and advocacy services to prison inmates and their families in Connecticut and nationwide. These services included preparation of pardon and clemency petitions, advocacy at parole hearings and similar services.
“Despite Mr. Shuckra’s promises to help these consumers, he failed to undertake any of the essential services that would have helped them in any way, much less, secure the release from prison they so desperately desired,” Rubenstein said. “The companies’ deception victimized inmates, their wives, mothers, children and family members, stealing not only their money but their hopes of reuniting with their families. Clients often struggled greatly to pay his fees, which ranged from $500 to $2500, for which no services were delivered, and no full or partial refunds were provided.”
Innovative Sentencing Solutions entered into contracts that promised full refunds if specific results were not achieved and often instructed clients to make payment directly to Christopher Shuckra, rather than the company. On at least one business website, Shuckra listed Innovative Sentencing Solutions in the “Lawyers” section, although neither Shuckra nor his companies are licensed to perform legal services in Connecticut.
“These contrived services merely preyed upon offenders and their loved one," said Commissioner Leo C. Arnone, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Correction. "Many of the issues for which assistance was offered for a fee, such as obtaining a facility transfer, resolution of facility issues and parole hearing advocacy are matters that an inmate and his or her family could address for free with the Department of Correction.”
The Final Decision and Order requires Shuckra to immediately pay restitution to 28 victims named in the order in the total amount of $37,416. Additionally, it permanently bars Shuckra and his companies’ employees from engaging in, or assisting others engaging in the advertising or provision of advocacy services for incarcerated individuals.
“Anyone considering hiring an advocate for any purpose should first be sure that the person is properly licensed, check to see if any complaints have been filed against the person or their company, and try to get reviews from past clients,” Rubenstein said. For persons involved in the Corrections system, he encouraged consumers to seek the services of reliable, well-established experts, including community-based non-profit groups, attorneys, or the Corrections system personnel.
The Department of Consumer Protection advises consumers to be especially wary when, after enlisting services from a company, they are directed to make payment directly to an individual, or employee of that company.