Visa seekers allegedly swindled by bogus migration lawyer

The agent reportedly conned “clients” out of nearly $100,000 over a period of almost two years

Visa seekers allegedly swindled by bogus migration lawyer

Several visa seekers were allegedly scammed by a bogus migration lawyer over the period of December 2015 to May 2017.

News.com.au reported that Marleen Shamma Charan, a.k.a. Shamna Singh, was first detained on 30 January 2019 at the Melbourne Airport while awaiting a flight to India. The 47-year-old pleaded not guilty to 68 charges in an appearance before the Magistrates Court in Melbourne last Thursday.

Among the charges were several counts of obtaining property by deception.

The court was told that Charan named herself as a migration agent who would be able to offer legal assistance and aid foreign nationals in obtaining residence visas in Australia. She reportedly advertised her services on Gumtree.

However, police documents provided to the court indicated that Charan was not and had never been a registered migration agent in the country.

Charan’s alleged first “client” had transferred $20,800 to her before refusing to send any more money, at which point Charan cut off contact. Police said that another “client” paid Charan $20,000 for legal services; when he asked for a refund after no such services were provided, she stopped responding. 

Two “clients” had forked over nearly $30,000 each for visas that never materialised, according to police, with one “client” discovering that Charan blocked her number after she sent through the money. The other “client” had been told that Charan was a “solicitor and specialised in protection visas and detention centres,” police said.

The court was also told that Charan employed an unpaid worker as a volunteer in her business Australian Immigration Legal Support Centre. The worker, who was also not a lawyer, was under the impression that by working with Charan, she was picking up migration law experience, police said. They claimed that she was also the registered owner of the businesses Beyond Immigration and Magdalene Business Development.

Prior to her trial, Charan is set to appear in a directions hearing before the Victorian County Court on 21 January.

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