Criminal Justice

Prosecutors allege law grad who failed bar exam created law firms in name of classmate

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A Stetson University law graduate who failed the bar exam twice has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft after prosecutors accused her of creating fictitious law firms and representing clients.

Roberta Guedes acknowledged in a Nov. 5 plea agreement that she has never been licensed to practice law in Florida or in any other state.

Yet she incorporated two law firms—one in September 2014 and one in November 2014, respectively—using the name of a classmate who passed the bar and then represented multiple clients in immigration and family law cases, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The two law firms are Ferguson and McKenzie and the Immigration and Litigation Law Office. Guedes created websites for both firms touting national and international office locations, listing fake law firm partners, and featuring stock photos of the fake professionals, the plea agreement says. Guedes listed the classmate as a lawyer in one of the offices and put the classmate’s name on business cards.

Guedes also maintained a physical law office in Tampa, where she met with clients and received phone calls and mail.

Guedes also listed a second person as a manager of her law offices, then used her name to open bank accounts and secure lines of credit, according to the plea agreement.

The Florida Supreme Court enjoined Guedes from engaging in the unlicensed practice of law in May after she reached an agreement with the Florida Bar.

The bar’s UPL petition had claimed that Guedes’ deception was discovered after a judge and her assistant tried to contact her through the bar’s lawyer directory. The assistant turned up Guedes’ phone number from a Google search.

When the assistant asked Guedes whether she was a lawyer, Guedes replied, “You can just scratch through that part” of the court filing, according to the bar petition.

Hat tip to Above the Law.

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