Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk reported the arrest Wednesday of a public defender and translator from the Pennsauken Municipal Court who used their positions, and a man’s difficulty speaking English, to extort money from him.
Mario Persiano Jr., M/34, of the 5100 block of N. Park Drive in Pennsauken, and Ana Baisden, F/57, of the 7500 block of Pleasant Avenue in Pennsauken, were both charged Wednesday with Official Misconduct amd Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Extortion. They were both released on summonses.
Baisden, the Pennsauken court’s translator, is accused of telling a municipal court defendant, who needed her translating services to stand trial on a Driving Under the Influence charge, that he needed to pay $800 to the translator in order to receive effective representation by the public defender, Persiano. Baisden implied Persiano would be more effective if he received the fee.
A public defender is appointed by the court for those who qualify based on their income. The court imposes a charge up to $200 for the public defender’s services.
It is alleged Baisden and Persiano preyed on a Spanish-speaking victim who would likely not be knowledgeable of the court system and would accept their representation regarding the need for the $800 fee. It is further alleged Baisden and Persiano worked in concert. Persiano is accused of receiving a $400 cash payment funneled to him by Baisden. She even gave the victim a receipt confirming his payment.
“We have taken swift and decisive action to rid the court system of two individuals who violated their oaths by preying on someone they were sworn to assist,” Prosecutor Faulk said Wednesday.
The investigation began the second week of October when the victim reported the solicitation of the fee to the Prosecutor’s Office. There is evidence others may have been victimized and Camden County Prosecutor’s Office detectives are pursuing that information to determine the full scope and depth of the shakedown.
Anyone who believes they were wrongly made to pay fees in the Pennsauken Municipal Court is asked to contact Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Robin Morante at (856) 225-8480.
Information may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All persons charged with criminal offenses are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.