Criminal Justice

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A 2014 graduate of the Stetson University College of Law was sentenced to prison time Wednesday for practicing law even though she flunked the bar exam twice.

Roberta Guedes, 41, was sentenced to 4½ years in prison and ordered to pay more than $14,000 in restitution, report the Tampa Bay Times and Law360.

She will also have to serve three years of supervised release after her prison term and will have to get mental health treatment.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. of the Middle District of Florida imposed the sentence.

Guedes agreed to plead guilty in November 2019 to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Prosecutors accused her of creating two law firms with incorporation documents that used the names of a law school classmate and a roommate.

Guedes allegedly made websites for the firms that featured stock photos of fake partners. She listed the classmate as a lawyer in one of the offices.

“Guedes assumed the identity of a young and unestablished attorney,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memo, “inflicting chaos upon her fledgling practice and damaging her reputation. Guedes also manipulated and used her immigrant roommate, … stealing her personal information to open bank accounts and lines of credit for both Guedes’ personal use and that of her phony law firm.”

The memo said Guedes “audaciously made in-person appearances as a licensed attorney” under her own identity and that of the former classmate.

The defense told the court that Guedes is “a giving and good person” who has made face masks for the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is also “a believer in animal rights” who has worked to save dogs and cats from kill shelters until she can find a comfortable home for them, according to the June 8 defense memo.

Guedes has had mental health issues since tragedy struck her family in the 1990s, the defense said. Her parents divorced, her brother choked to death, and a grandmother who provided stability in her life died.