A single mother posed as a migration lawyer to steal nearly $80,000 from ‘vulnerable’ victims wanting to live and work in Australia, a Victorian court has heard.
Marleen Charan, 48, was arrested in 2019 as she prepared to board a plane to India before being arrested by Victoria police and charged. Charan charged clients up to $30,000 before cutting off all contact, the Victoria County Court heard Friday.
Judge Duncan Allen was scathing at Charan, who pleaded guilty to obtaining financial benefits and property by deception, saying the victims were vulnerable members of society who trusted him.
The court was told that Charan would meet clients at her office in Melbourne Bourke St, where she based her migration business, the Australian Immigration Legal Support Center and displayed fake legal practice certificates.
She would ask clients for a $300 deposit before upgrading to $30,000 “payment plans” that would result in visas allowing them to live and work in Australia.
The breach ran from 2015 to 2017 and invariably ended with Charan, who sometimes used pseudonyms such as “Sonya”, screening calls from desperate customers.
The court was told that Charan had not returned the money.
Defense attorney Luke Howson said Charan “had huge expectations from his family”, who he described as very successful.
Judge Allen said he would have Charan assessed for a community correction order before returning to convict her on October 4.