Florida woman fails bar exam twice, starts law firm anyway
A Florida woman who failed the Bar exam twice — and has yet to pass it — was audacious enough to start her own law firm.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Roberta Guedes, 40, could end up facing prison time after federal prosecutors say that she used the name of a classmate who passed the Florida Bar to create two new law firms with the state’s Division of Corporations. To seem legit, she even created websites for both companies, made up national and international offices and displayed stock photos of people who looked like lawyers.
From there, Guedes represented clients, accepting payment to work in immigration and family law cases. She neglected to tell them she wasn’t a licensed lawyer, the Times reported.
Guedes, who graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2014, signed a plea agreement Oct. 30 convicting her of federal charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Her charges came months after settling a case the Florida Bar brought against her accusing her of practicing law without a license.
— Joe Crook (@JoeCrookJD) November 13, 2019
Citing court documents, the Times reported that Guedes used former classmate Agnieszka Piasecka’s name for her nefarious activities.
Piasecka attended law school with Guedes and the two planned to open a law firm together, the court documents said. That never happened as a result of Guedes failing the Bar exam. Piasecka did pass and opened her own firm specializing in wills and trusts, immigration and divorce cases.
In September 2014, Guedes created a business named Ferguson and McKenzie LLC. She listed Piasecka as a registered agent for the corporation without her knowledge, according to the plea agreement. She used the name of another woman, Arlete Chouinard, as vice president and manager for the business, also without her knowledge.
She also created another business, Immigration and Litigation Law Office, Inc., using a similar scheme.
The scheme fell apart after two judges figured out the ruse after her failed attempt to have two cases heard on the same day.
When trying to contact Guedes, they couldn’t locate her name in the Florida Bar’s lawyer directory.
She denied practicing law without a license, but, in the settlement, agreed to pay back the money she’d taken from clients and never advertise herself as an attorney again.
Guedes is due in court for a plea hearing in December. She faces a minimum of two years in prison.
Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review digital producer. You can contact Samson at 412-320-7845, [email protected] or via Twitter .