Posing as an immigration lawyer, a Victorian woman swindled close to $80,000 from unsuspecting victims who hoped she could help them get Australian visas.
Melbourne woman Marleen Shamna Charan, 48, has never been registered in Victoria as a migration agent or lawyer.
But between February 2016 and May 2017, Charan convinced four people that she could help them get Australian visas through her business, the Australian Immigration Legal Support Centre.
She met with the victims in her Melbourne office and charged them thousands of dollars for services before blocking them from contacting her when their visas didn't arrive.
In total, Charan pocketed $79,816 while each of the victims lost between $8000 and $28,000.
Charan was arrested at Melbourne Airport in January 2019, as she tried to board a flight to India.
She denied any involvement in the scam and instead tried to shift the blame to her only employee.
Charan pleaded guilty in the Victorian County Court on Friday to obtaining financial advantage by deception.
The 48-year-old, who has no prior convictions, has never returned the money to the victims.
Charan was deliberately deceitful to vulnerable people who needed help from an actual immigration lawyer, prosecutor Fraser Cameron told the court.
Defence counsel Luke Howson conceded Charan was someone who was "unhelpfully optimistic" about her own success and achievements.
He noted that since the offending, Charan had started and finished a law degree, though her plea will prevent her from practising.
Given delays in her case and her lack of offending since, Judge Duncan Allen flagged an onerous community corrections order without jail time.
He implored Charan to take responsibility for her crimes.
"It seems in the past she's had trouble living in reality," he said.
"She deceived herself as well as others.
"There is no independent evidence of remorse at this time. She needs to accept reality."
Charan will be sentenced in October.
Australian Associated Press