A Victorian woman posed as an immigration lawyer to swindle close to $80,000 from several unsuspecting victims, who hoped she could help them get visas to migrate to Australia.
Marleen Charan, 48, charged thousands of dollars for migration services to four people between February 2016 and May 2017, before blocking them from contacting her when their visas did not arrive.
The court heard that Charan advertised her business, the Australian Immigration Legal Support Centre, on online marketplace Gumtree and issue clients payment plans for up to $35,000 in fees.
Charan, who has never been registered as a migration agent or lawyer in Victoria, was arrested at Melbourne Airport in 2019 as she tried to board a flight to India.
The court was told that during the initial police interview, Charan denied any involvement in the scam and tried to blame an employee, who was one of her victims.
Charan told officers she had been “very clear” about her limitations and that she knew her code of ethics and “can provide consultancy but not advice or a visa”.
“Part of my nature is to help people and reach out, and I still want to do that,” she said.
Charan changed her tune as she appeared in the Victorian County Court on Friday, pleading guilty to obtaining financial advantage by deception.
Her lawyer accepted that Charan had overstated her experience and qualifications but said she was under “tremendous expectations” from family members to become successful.