NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – According to authorities, a 62-year-old man was either an attorney for 15 years or merely studying to be one — depending on who you asked.
But investigators say he never had a law license.
That’s according to an arrest warrant obtained by Local 10 News on Wednesday, the day Level Francois was set to appear in Miami-Dade court.
A state fraud detective wrote that Francois, appending a “T” to his legal name, styled himself as “Levelt Francois, Esq,” and operated Global Reach Law Center, P.A. in North Miami Beach. He claimed to practice immigration, civil and criminal law.
In one instance, investigators wrote that in 2014, Francois took $6,000 in cash from a woman seeking legal representation for her brother, who was facing deportation proceedings.
The victim made several attempts to contact him to check on the status of the case, Detective Jose Andrade wrote.
“(She) stated that Defendant Francois answered a few of her emails telling her that he had staff working on her brother’s case while he was in Haiti with an important case,” Andrade wrote.
The woman said she never heard from Francois again, he wrote.
Francois is also accused of representing his brother, a taxi driver, in 2014 following a car crash in late Dec. 2013.
According to the arrest warrant, Francois’ brother hired him after racking up $11,775 in medical bills at a North Miami Beach clinic, which his brother said the at-fault driver’s insurance company wouldn’t pay up.
The warrant states that Francois turned around and demanded the insurer pay $170,775 for “medical treatment, loss of wages and pain and suffering.”
An insurance company found the way Francois handled the case “suspicious” and looked up his Florida Bar License, but couldn’t find one, Andrade wrote.
The Florida Bar reported that Francois was not and had never been a member.
Francois’ brother later turned the claim over to the clinic, with Francois claiming he couldn’t continue to pursue the claim “since he had to leave to Haiti,” investigators wrote.
A clinic worker told investigators she was familiar with Francois, who had been a patient himself. She said Francois gave her a business card from Global Reach Law Center, P.A. and wrote on a medical questionnaire that he had been an attorney for 15 years.
Investigators also interviewed the property manager of the North Miami Beach office building Francois rented office space for Global Reach Law Center, P.A.
The warrant states that after Francois introduced himself as an attorney, said he needed an office, and provided her with documentation stating he was an attorney for a required background check.
The property manager told authorities that Francois then told her that he wasn’t really a lawyer, but was “studying to be a attorney or something like that,” the warrant states.
“(She) told Defendant Francois that he could not have anything in the office stating that he was an attorney, law offices of, or otherwise, until he passed the Florida Bar and is certified,” Andrade wrote.
The property manager recalled telling Francois that “studying and you passing the bar are two total different situations.”
However, the property manager told authorities that Francois ended up renting the office anyway, using a friend’s name and said Francois occupied the office and helped people fill out immigration forms.
Francois was being held without bond at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on two charges of practicing law without a license and third-degree grand theft.