Alleged fake lawyer nabbed at airport after police claim she ripped off immigrants

Marleen Charan is accused of pretending to be a lawyer and pocketing tens of thousands in fake legal fees before being arrested at the airport. Credit: Supplied

An accused conwoman allegedly made extraordinary claims to her unsuspecting victims who thought she was a lawyer, a court has heard. Read at news.com.au

A woman has been accused of pretending to be a lawyer and pocketing tens of thousands from her “clients” before cutting off all contact.

Marleen Shamma Charan was arrested at the airport while trying to board a plane to India, a court has heard.

She appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday where she pleaded not guilty to 68 charges including multiple counts of obtaining property by deception.

The 47-year-old, who also goes by Shamna Singh, allegedly claimed she was a migration agent who could help foreign nationals get visas to live in Australia.

Her first alleged victim paid $20,800 before she refused to transfer Ms Charan any more, which is when Ms Charan stopped responding, the court heard.

Ms Charan told her second alleged victim she was “a solicitor and specialised in protection visas and detention centres”, police allege.

The woman gave Ms Charan almost $30,000 in exchange for a visa that never came, the court heard.

A man gave Ms Charan $20,000 before asking for his money back after no legal services were provided, at which point she cut off all contact, police alleged.

The same pattern allegedly repeated for a fourth victim, who found her number blocked, despite transferring Ms Charan almost $30,000 for a visa, the court has heard.

Ms Charan is accused of finding her victims by advertising on Gumtree that she could obtain visas for foreign nationals in need of legal help to navigate the complex field.

The court heard she ran a business called Australian Immigration Legal Support Centre, which was staffed by her and a volunteer — neither of them lawyers.

The unpaid worker was one of Ms Charan’s victims and believed she was gaining valuable volunteer experience in migration law, police allege.

Ms Charan “is not and has never been a registered migration agent in Australia”, police documents tendered to the court state.

The businesses Beyond Immigration and Magdalene Business Development are also registered in her name, police say.

She allegedly ripped off the trusting immigrants from December 2015 to May 2017.

She was arrested at Melbourne Airport on January 30 last year while attempting to board a flight to India, the court heard.

She will next appear in the County Court of Victoria on January 21 for a directions hearing ahead of her trial.

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