Legal Ethics

Texas Fundraiser Convicted on 14 of 22 Counts in Criminal UPL Case

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A prominent Democratic political fundraiser has been convicted by a Texas jury on 14 of the 22 counts he faced in an unusual criminal trial for allegedly practicing law when he wasn’t actually licensed as an attorney.

Mauricio Celis, 37, had claimed he was licensed in Mexico. But that wasn’t true, prosecutors contended, nor was he licensed in Texas. Nonetheless, he founded the Washington, D.C.-based CGT Law Group International, which earned millions in attorney fees. A sentencing hearing will immediately follow his conviction today in Corpus Christi, where he faces a potential penalty ranging from probation to 10 years in prison on each count, reports KRIS, an NBC affiliate.

At trial, experts offered varying definitions of what qualifications were necessary to practice as a lawyer in Mexico, and the defense argued that a state statute making it a crime to falsely hold oneself out as a lawyer is vague, reports the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in an article published prior to the verdict.

“If you’re confused about the law in Mexico, then (prosecutors) didn’t prove it to you beyond a reasonable doubt,” lead defense attorney Tony Canales told jurors, arguing for an acquittal.

Celis, who plans to appeal the verdict in the unauthorized practice of law, or UPL, case, also reportedly is likely to face additional trials on separate charges including money laundering and impersonating a peace officer.

He has contended that his prosecution is politically motivated.

Related coverage: “Democratic Donor Accused of Impersonating a Lawyer” “Bar Group Sues Texas Lawyers Who Practiced With Businessman”

Associated Press: “Trial of South Texas Democratic fundraiser begins”

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