Tampa, FL – Senior U.S. District Judge James Moody, Jr. today sentenced Roberta A. Guedes (41, Tampa) to four years and six months in federal prison for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a fraudulent scheme wherein Guedes posed and practiced law as a licensed attorney. The court also ordered Guedes to pay $14,318 in restitution to her victims.
Guedes had pleaded guilty on December 17, 2019.
According to court documents, in 2014, Guedes graduated from Stetson University College of Law, but twice failed the Florida Bar exam. Guedes has never been licensed to practice law in Florida nor in any other state. Despite this, in the fall of 2014, Guedes incorporated two fake law firms—Ferguson and McKenzie LLC, and Immigration and Litigation Law Office, Inc. Guedes marketed her legal services and rented office space at the Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa. She took on multiple client-victims, misrepresenting herself as an attorney. Guedes charged her client-victims fees for services, which ranged from representation in immigration proceedings to family law matters. At times, Guedes impersonated a law school classmate and licensed attorney who had no involvement in Guedes’s sham law firms. As part of her fraudulent scheme, Guedes filed court pleadings and immigration petitions using her former classmate’s name and Florida Bar number, and she also made several personal appearances in federal immigration court (Orlando) and in Hillsborough County court posing as a licensed attorney.
Following the initiation of a Florida Bar investigation into her conduct, Guedes falsified and filed a third party affidavit in an attempt to undermine and discredit that investigation.
Guedes furthered her fraudulent scheme by using other victims’ personal identity information. For example, Guedes used one victim’s Social Security number, birthdate, and other identifying information to form corporations and to open bank accounts, credit cards, and other lines of credit for personal expenses and business-related expenses for her sham law firms.
“For years, Guedes engaged in a brazen pattern of fraud and deceit upon our legal and financial institutions,” said HSI Tampa Assistant Special Agent in Charge Hector X. Colon. “Thanks to HSI and USCIS special agents and the Largo Police Department, she will be held accountable for her crimes.”
“The defendant’s illegal actions abused the trust placed in her by clients,” said USCIS Tampa District Director Michael Borgen. “USCIS is dedicated to identifying and exposing immigration fraud schemes, and we are proud to have partnered with ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to shut down this illegal and deceptive practice.”
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, with assistance from the Largo Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank Murray.