Roydera Hackworth saw a chance to help people when she quit her job as a chemist and became a lawyer in 1997 – starting with members of her church who needed help filing immigration applications, according to Federal Court documents.

Mismanagement of client funds and a personal injury dispute involving his nephew led to disciplinary action with the state bar later, and Hackworth temporarily lost his law degree.

But prosecutors said she continued to practice – using the name of another lawyer.

Hackworth was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison on March 18 after pleading guilty to federal visa fraud charges in the Eastern District of North Carolina, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. She surrendered her law license around the same time the charges were announced in the summer of 2021.

“Ms. Hackworth has cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office throughout their investigation and has fully accepted responsibility for her actions,” her attorney, Woody White, told McClatchy News in a statement. the Court and is relieved that this chapter of her life is nearly over.”

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Hackworth hails from Wilmington, North Carolina, but previously practiced in Greensboro.

White said in court documents that Hackworth worked as a chemist for a Swiss pharmaceutical company for 12 years before the company offered to send her to law school. Hackworth worked full time while attending school and earned his law degree from North Carolina Central University in 1996, he said.

“As a lawyer, Roy was not as financially successful as in her first job, but she found something more valuable to her; opportunity to help people,” White said in the sentencing papers.

Hackworth began helping “vulnerable people” in his church with immigration applications and eventually developed an immigration practice, his lawyer said.

But in 2012, an NC State Bar Association disciplinary board determined she mishandled a client’s money and suspended her license for four years with the option to stay on for three of those years if she met certain conditions.

That suspension was increased to five years after Hackworth was caught representing her nephew in a personal injury lawsuit in Alabama while her license was suspended, according to a second disciplinary report.

She reportedly took the case before her license was suspended and was not paid for her services.

“Although the defendant’s actions violated ethical rules, the defendant had no selfish or dishonest motive in undertaking the representation,” the disciplinary board said at the time.

The Immigration Appeals Board also suspended her from practicing immigration cases in 2014.

Sometime after temporarily losing his license, prosecutors said, Hackworth resumed filing petitions and applications on behalf of clients with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The government said she pretended to be another licensed attorney on those forms.

“Review by (federal investigators) revealed that between 6 and 24 clients were represented by Hackworth unaware that Hackworth was submitting their immigration applications and application under the other attorney’s name,” the office said. of the US Attorney.

Hackworth surrendered her attorney’s license in July 2021, according to an expungement order filed with the NC State Bar Association, and she pleaded guilty to one count of visa fraud in September.

His lawyer had asked for a suspended sentence, saying he was “ashamed of the bad example she gave” and “ready to accept, with grace and humility, the judgment rendered by this honorable Court”.

He highlighted his immediate cooperation with prosecutors and his early willingness to sign a plea deal. But the judge denied the request.

Hackworth was ordered to report to jail in 48 days, according to court documents.

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