Staff

Adriana Miranda, Senior Paralegal/Team Lead

adriana miranda

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Adriana Miranda earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Florida International University in 1998 and a Master's degree in Business Administration from Augusta State University in 2005. Ms. Miranda began working in the immigration law field in 2002. Ms. Miranda is fluent in Spanish. In addition to spending time with her husband and four children, Adriana loves movies and anything entertainment.

Agustin Baler, Paralegal

Agustin Baler

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Agustin Baler received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2018. His family immigrated to the United States from Argentina when he was six years old, and that experience has informed his interest in immigration law. In his free time, Agustin enjoys reading, playing and watching soccer.

Amber M. Bennett, Paralegal

Amber M. Bennett

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Amber M. Bennett graduated in 2015 from Western Carolina University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. As a member of our Permanent Employment Certification (PERM) team, Amber provides support services during the case preparation process. In her free time, Amber likes to remain active by participating in CrossFit and playing softball.

Anna Sandberg, Paralegal

Anna Sandberg

Anna Sandberg was born in Denmark. She graduated in 2012 with a MBA from Park University based in Parkville, MO. After graduating, Anna began working in the immigration law field. When she’s away from the office, Anna enjoys traveling home to Denmark and spending time with her family.

Anne M. Mentus, Senior Paralegal/Team Lead

anne mentus

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Anne M. Mentus earned a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice from The College at Brockport, State University of New York in 2005. Ms. Mentus has over twelve (12) years of experience in immigration law.

Anna Sandberg was born in Denmark. She graduated in 2012 with a MBA from Park University based in Parkville, MO. After graduating, Anna began working in the immigration law field. When she’s away from the office, Anna enjoys traveling home to Denmark and spending time with her family.

Ashli Malone, Paralegal

Ashli

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Ashli Malone graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology in addition to earning a Paralegal Studies Certification. She is eager to add her skill set to our team, as she understands that immigration law is continuously developing and will continue to impact many families and businesses. Outside of the office, Ashli enjoys reading, shopping and taking her two dogs on walks or short hikes.

Beth R. Tart, Senior Paralegal, Team Lead-PERM Process

beth tart

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Beth R. Tart earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts Business Administration from Furman University in 1983. Ms. Tart has worked in the immigration law field since 1996. Beth enjoys camping, hiking, coaching small group leaders at her church, and attending sporting events (especially football).

Blair Carpenter, Paralegal

Blair Carpenter

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Blair Carpenter graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Hispanic Studies from Davidson College. Prior to joining our team, Blair worked at a nonprofit organization serving a largely immigrant population, where she worked in partnership with immigration attorneys to support clients. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, knitting, hand lettering and spending time with loved ones.

Brianne A. Goethe, Paralegal

Brianne  A. Goethe

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Brianne A. Goethe graduated from Hampton University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Political Science. As a legal administrative assistant, Brianne helps our senior paralegals with case preparation and various office tasks. Outside of the office, Brianne enjoys traveling.

Buffy K. Dover, Senior Paralegal

Buffy Dover

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Buffy K. Dover earned a degree in Legal Secretarial Studies from Kings College in 1992. Ms. Dover has worked in the immigration law field since 1997. Buffy enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters and also enjoys reading and exercising.

Christine Ahebwa, PERM Legal Assistant

Christine Ahebwa

Christine Ahebwa was born in Uganda, Africa. There she earned a Bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in 2008 before relocating to America. She has worked in the immigration law field for four years. In her free time, Christine likes to read books and bike with her family.

Damaris Ruiz, Paralegal

Damaris Ruiz

Damaris Ruiz attended Kent State University in Ohio where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations in 2016. She has worked with immigration law for two years. She began working in international migration at the UN Migration Agency (Geneva, Switzerland), followed by working in refugee resettlement at the International Institute (Akron, Ohio) and as a paralegal since April of 2017 (Cleveland, Ohio). When she’s not in the office, Damaris is a fine artist who spends her time painting.

Dawn Powell-Reid, Senior Paralegal

Dawn Powell-Reid

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Dawn Powell-Reid attended Rutgers University where she earned a Master’s degree in Management, Labor and Employment Relations in 2007. Dawn has over 20 years of extensive experience working in the immigration law industry. Outside of the office, Dawn enjoys completing interior design and decorating projects.

Debbie E. Sigmon, Senior Paralegal, Team Lead

debbie sigmon

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Debbie E. Sigmon earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1985. Ms. Sigmon has worked in the immigration law field since 1987. Debbie enjoys traveling to Savannah and Asheville and spending time with friends and family, especially her two nieces and nephew.

Dennis Villalta, Paralegal

Dennis Villalta

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Dennis Villalta graduated from Keiser University in 2005. Dennis has over five years’ experience working for immigration law firms across the country. He enjoys working in the immigration law field due to the constant challenges requiring new approaches and creative solutions for each individual client. When he’s away from the office, Dennis enjoys weightlifting and the martial arts (specifically Muay Thai and jujitsu).

Elisabeth R. Perez, Paralegal

Elisabeth OLoughlin

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Elisabeth R. Perez earned a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from Queen's University in 2012. Elisabeth loves learning new languages, participating in 5k's for a good cause, and traveling abroad with humanitarian aid teams.

 

Jami Kennedy, Senior Paralegal

jami Kennedy

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Jami Kennedy earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2006. Jami has worked in the immigration law field specializing in employment-based immigration since 2006.

Jessica Normand, Paralegal

Jessica Normand

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Jessica Normand graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Latin American Studies. Jessica began working in the immigration law field in May of 2017. Prior to becoming a paralegal, she served as an AmeriCorps member helping newly arrived refugees adjust to life in the U.S. In her free time, Jessica enjoys studying Brazilian Portuguese and dancing (Samba, Salsa, Belly Dance).

Jill Grosse, Administrative Assistant

Jill headshot

Jill Grosse graduated from Kings College in 1982. She has extensive experience working with administrative support and is returning to the field after taking time to raise her children. When Jill’s away from the office, she enjoys exercising and attending events with her book clubs.

Kiersten L. Trismen, Administrative Team Lead

Kiersten  L. Trismen

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Kiersten L. Trismen graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts/Restaurant Management from Johnston & Wales University in 2008 before returning to school to earn a second degree in Psychology from University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2011. As the firm’s Administrative Team Lead, Kiersten supervises all day-to-day operational tasks. Her favorite hobby in her free time is reading and growing her large collection of books.

Ladonna B. Ferguson, Front Desk Receptionist/Administrative Coordinator

Ladonna Ferguson

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Ladonna B. Ferguson has seven years of office management experience. She has a loving husband and immensely enjoys gardening.

Laura Panduro-Vargas, Paralegal

laura panduro-vargas

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Laura Panduro-Vargas earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Fayetteville State University in 2012. Laura is fluent in Spanish and enjoys travelling, cooking, exercising and spending time with her family and friends.

Marco C. Raye, Marketing Specialist

Marco  C. Raye

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Marco C. Raye is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy. In 2011, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism. Marco has worked as a traditional and digital marketer since 2012. He works hand-in-hand with all branches of our firm to create, maintain and promote the mission, values, goals and objectives of Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm. Outside of the office, Marco is a published inspirational fiction author who enjoys swimming, cooking and outdoor activities.

Renée O, Paralegal

Renée O

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Renée O earned her Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and French from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte in May 2006, and is pursuing a Masters degree in Translation Studies from New York University. Renée is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Senegal (2009-2012). She is fluent in French and highly proficient in Pulaar (a dialect of the Fulah language).

Ronald P. Townsend, Chief Operating Officer

Ronald  P. Townsend

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Ronald ("Ron") P. Townsend is a graduate of Wake Forest University who served 31 years in the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot, as a squadron commander, as a base commander, and as a diplomat. He lived in Santiago, Chile and worked at the U.S. Embassy there as the Senior U.S. Defense Official in Chile for three years. As our firm’s Chief Operating Officer, Ron oversees the day-to-day operations of the firm in addition to managing the firm's operating and information systems. In his free time, Ron enjoys snow skiing, playing golf and racquet sports, and serves on various nonprofit organization boards.

Sean M. Flanagan, Paralegal

sean flanagan

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Sean M. Flanagan earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008 and a Master’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2011. Sean has been working in the legal field since 2012. In college, Sean played trumpet for four seasons in the UNC Marching Tar Heels and Carolina Pep Bands. Sean enjoys reading fiction as well as non-fiction, writing, playing sports, especially soccer and basketball, cheering for the Carolina Panthers, lifting weights, and having fun with his family and friends.

Shannon Hurleigh, Paralegal

Shannon Hurleigh

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Shannon Hurleigh graduated from Texas Tech University in 2010 with a Master of Fine Arts. She also completed the Paralegal Certificate Program from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte during early 2017. When she is away from the office, Shannon enjoys supporting local arts and spending time with her family.

Sophia Miller, Paralegal

Sophia Miller

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Sophia Miller earned a Bachelor’s degree in the Arts of Sociology concentrating in social justice from Dickinson College in May of 2017. Sophia studied abroad in Spain and speaks fluent Spanish. In her spare time, she enjoys singing as a trained vocalist.

Stephanie R. Dukes, Accounting Assistant

Stephanie  R. Dukes

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Stephanie R. Dukes graduated from King’s College in 2001, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Stephanie works as our accounting assistant, helping on items such as accounts payable, accounts receivable and others. She also serves as a support to our administrative team. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys shopping, traveling and hitting the open road in her Jeep Wrangler.

Tara Orlowski, Team Lead

Tara Orlowski Portillo

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Tara Orlowski graduated from Rutgers University in 1997 with a Bachelors of Arts degree with a double major including Political Science and Women’s Studies. When it comes to working in the field of immigration law, Tara has over 16 years’ experience. In her free time, Tara enjoys reading, crocheting and working on her small organic farm.

Tess Pacheco, Senior Paralegal

Tess Pacheco

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Tess Pacheco attended California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business. Tess has worked in the immigration law field as a paralegal for six years. When she’s not at the office, Tess enjoys playing volleyball and spending time with her children.

 

Tiffany M. Tucker, Senior Paralegal

tiffany tucker

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Tiffany M. Tucker earned a degree in Legal Secretarial Studies from Kings College in 1992. Ms. Tucker has worked in the immigration law field since 2006. Tiffany enjoys spending time with family and friends, trying out new recipes, cheering for the Carolina Tarheels and volunteering with the Charlotte Ronald McDonald House.

Yessenia Portillo, Paralegal

Yessenia Portillo

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Yessenia Portillo is originally from Bogota, Colombia. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Connecticut in 2012. She has worked in the immigration law field for over two years. As one of our paralegals, Yessenia focuses on assisting with our family-based immigration cases. In her free time, Yessenia enjoys visiting new museum exhibits and live music events.