Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Former Wilmington attorney sentenced for visa fraud

After failing to reach an agreement in mediation in November, Leland filed a motion for a protective order that would block certain communication records from reaching the public. (Port City Daily/File photo)

WILMINGTON — After pleading guilty to visa fraud, a former Wilmington attorney was sentenced to serve a year in prison and two years of supervised release thereafter. Roydera Hackworth, 63, is charged with fraud in connection with visas, permits, and other documents. 

Hackworth had a law office in Greensboro, though she was based in Wilmington. Former New Hanover County Commissioner and defense attorney Woody White represented Hackworth in the federal case, according to previous reporting from PCD.

READ MORE: Wilmington attorney accused of visa fraud to be sentenced next year

Hackworth’s license to practice law in North Carolina was suspended in 2012 for four years by the North Carolina State Bar (NCSB). A decade ago she was accused of inappropriately commingling client funds in trust accounts, mismanaging the money and failing to keep proper records of the transactions.

During her suspension, she was accused of forging another attorney’s name on immigration documents, as investigated by Homeland Security and other federal agencies. The board of immigration appeals suspended her in 2014 from handling immigration matters with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Hackworth violated her suspension in 2019. She continued to represent clients and practice law by submitting forms, petitions, and applications on their behalf to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The clients were interviewed by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS). Between six and 24 said they were unaware Hackworth was submitting papers under the name of a different attorney. The agencies found Hackworth “impersonated another licensed attorney, submitted various immigration related documents, which she signed under penalty of perjury representing that she was the other attorney, and averred that she was not suspended and was in fact authorized to practice law.” 

She signed an affidavit last July admitting her wrongdoing: “I continued to engage in the unauthorized practice of law, forged the name of ‘Omowunmi Odedere’ to immigration petitions filed with the Department of Homeland Security, and held myself out as being able to practice law to clients without disclosing that I had been suspended by the State Bar.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich prosecuted the case and United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan oversaw her sentencing. Hackworth will serve 12 months and one day and two years of supervised release.

“Hackworth’s disregard of the Board of Immigration Appeals suspension order caused harm to her clients and to the immigration system,” Homeland Security’s Disciplinary Counsel said in a press release. “Her unscrupulous behavior required further action to protect the public and the immigration system.”

Have tips or comments? Email info@portcitydaily.com

Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

Related Articles