A Round Rock woman is accused of falsely posing as an immigration lawyer at her business in downtown Round Rock, according to an arrest affidavit. Maria Dekay, 43, was charged with falsely holding oneself out as a lawyer, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Dekay appeared to specialize in immigration law at her business named GroupOne at 409 W. Main St. in Round Rock, the affidavit said. Round Rock police began investigating her Nov. 26 after receiving a repor that Dekay had kept a notary stamp left behind by a former employee and used it to illegally notarize legal documents, according to the affidavit. It said the former employee’s signature also was forged when the documents were notarized.
A detective found out from the State Bar of Texas that Dekay was not a licensed attorney in Texas, the affidavit said. The investigator also found out, according to the affidavit, that Austin lawyer Diego Rodriguez, who handles immigration cases, had filed a complaint with the State Bar of Texas against Dekay, saying he is representing former immigration clients of Dekay’s who were not provided any legal services.
Rodriguez told police he had called Dekay several times asking if she was a licensed lawyer and sometimes she said she was and sometimes she said she wasn’t, the affidavit said.
One of Dekay’s former clients that Rodriguez was representing later told police he had paid Dekay $1,800 to represent him as an immigration lawyer, according to the affidavit. It said that when he called her three weeks ago, she told him she could not go with him to an interview about his case but could “coach” him about what to say, the affidavit said.
The man said Dekay would not give him back the documents he had provided to her, including his birth certificate, the affidavit said. It said police found out that Dekay had failed the Texas Bar exam in 2017 but had applied to take it again in 2019. An investigator also discovered that Dekay received a master’s degree in 2013 in international law from the University of Houston, the affidavit said.
It said when police visited Dekay on Nov. 26, she told them she was a lawyer but not an attorney at law, the affidavit said.
She said an attorney is required to pass the bar exam, according to the document. It said she told police she had failed to pass the bar exam in Texas three times and also had failed the bar exam once in either New York or New Jersey. She also said she had a law degree from the University of Houston, the affidavit said. It also said police told her the master’s degree she had was not the same as a degree from a law school.
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Dekay told police she understood that but then said “she never represented anyone or collected any fees for her work as a lawyer but freely admitted she does proclaim her profession as a lawyer,” the affidavit said.
Police obtained a search warrant Nov. 28 for Dekay’s office and found documents that showed that “several thousand dollars appear to have been charged to ‘clients’ for attorney’s fees,” according to the affidavit. It said they also found a forged State Bar of Texas certificate with Dekay’s name on it that said she was an attorney who had been admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2017.
Dekay told police it was not an actual State Bar of Texas certificate but that she used it to “inspire her vision,” the affidavit said.