Former Judge-Disbarred Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charges
Former State Administrative Law Judge Fraudulently Obtained More Than $40,000 From Social Security Administration and Almost $572,000 from Client’s Estate
ALBUQUERQUE – A former New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and disbarred lawyer pleaded guilty today in federal court to defrauding the Social Security Administration (SSA) of more than $40,000.00 and an estate and its beneficiaries of almost $572,000.00. Juanita Roibal-Bradley, 60, of Albuquerque, N.M., entered guilty pleas to one count of failing to disclose an event affecting the continued right to Social Security benefit payments and twelve counts of wire fraud. Under the terms of her plea agreement, Roibal-Bradley will be sentenced to a prison term not to exceed 39 months and will be ordered to pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the court to the victims of her crimes.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Special Agent in Charge Robert Feldt of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General.
In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said, “To protect the public and its faith in our judicial system, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will vigorously prosecute officers of the court who abuse their positions of trust and take advantage of the public.”
“Criminals who prey on innocent victims and cheat a government program that helps retirees and the disabled deserve serious penalties. When an offender is a former judge and attorney, law enforcement and prosecutors need to be even more aggressive to restore public confidence in our legal system,” said Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division. “The FBI thanks the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General for its hard work on this case, and congratulates the U.S. Attorney’s Office on a successful prosecution.”
“The Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General will vigorously investigate individuals committing fraud against Social Security programs. This instant case represents cooperation amongst agencies to bring to justice those who take advantage of government programs and innocent victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Feldt of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General.
Roibal-Bradley was charged in a 23-count indictment on Sept. 10, 2015, with one count of defrauding the SSA, twelve counts of wire fraud and ten counts of money laundering. According to the indictment, between Sept. 2007 and March 2011, Roibal-Bradley defrauded the SSA of more than $40,000.00 in disability benefits by failing to disclose that she was employed as a mediator and supervising attorney by the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration and thus not entitled to disability benefits. Roibal-Bradley previously had served as an ALJ at the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration from 2003 to 2007.
The indictment’s wire fraud counts alleged that between March 2012 and June 2013, Roibal-Bradley devised and executed a scheme to defraud an estate and its beneficiaries of almost $571,948.98. In furtherance of the scheme, Roibal-Bradley falsely represented herself to be an attorney authorized to practice law and agreed to provide legal services in administering an estate at a time when New Mexico Supreme Court had prohibited her from the private practice of law. The Court subsequently disbarred Roibal-Bradley in March 2014. As part of the scheme, Roibal-Bradley falsely promised to distribute the estate’s funds to its beneficiaries but instead transferred the funds into her personal bank account and used wire transfers to facilitate the transfer of funds. The indictment alleges that, between April 2012 and Aug. 2012, Roibal-Bradley facilitated eleven wire transfers ranging in amounts of $5,000.00 to $389,503.33 from the estate’s bank account to her personal bank account.
The indictment also charged Roibal-Bradley with laundering the proceeds she derived from her wire fraud activity by transferring those assets to others, including members of her family. The indictment alleges that Roibal-Bradley facilitated eleven transfers of proceeds from her wire fraud activities ranging in amounts of $12,000.00 to 131,492.77 between May 2012 and July 2012.
During today’s change of plea hearing, Roibal-Bradley pleaded guilty to defrauding the SSA and to the twelve wire fraud charges. In her plea agreement, Roibal-Bradley admitted she applied for SSA disability benefit payments in Sept. 2011, and claimed that she had a disability that prevented her from working. The SSA continued to pay Roibal-Bradley disability benefits between March 2008 and March 2011, even though she was working full-time as a mediator and supervising attorney for the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration. In entering her guilty plea, Roibal-Bradley admitted that she failed to notify the SSA that she was capable of full-time gainful employment.
Roibal-Bradley’s plea agreement also details the scheme by which she defrauded an estate and its heirs of almost $572,000.00. In the plea agreement, Roibal-Bradley admitted that she did not tell the administrator of the estate that she was prohibited from engaging in the private practice of law. She also admitted fraudulently transferring $571,948.98 from the estate’s bank accounts into her own bank account between April 2012 and Aug. 2012.
Roibal-Bradley continues to be released on conditions of release and pretrial supervision pending her sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
The case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General based on a referral from the Disciplinary Board of the New Mexico Supreme Court. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Holland S. Kastrin and Kristopher N. Houghton are prosecuting the case.