Faking her job as an immigration lawyer, Marleen Charan ripped off four clients for nearly $80,000.
The four people are still out of pocket and could be waiting a while to see any cash, after her lawyer revealed she is on benefits and unable to make restitution.
Judge Duncan Allen ordered that she repay the money if, in future, she earns enough to be able to afford to compensate them for their losses.
Prosecutors noted she had never even offered to pay them back.
Charan’s first victim lost $10,500 after she falsely claimed she was a lawyer who would provide an immigration law program for the victim to complete, after which she would sponsor a visa application.
The second victim was out of pocket $28,408 after Charan claimed to be a lawyer who could lodge an application for her to become an Australian permanent resident.
A man lost $20,108 after he was told by Charan that she could help him lodge a temporary work visa for his brother.
Charan also claimed she could give the brother employment support at a restaurant she was opening in Footscray.
Her fourth victim paid $20,800 after she represented herself as a lawyer who could support them with visa sponsorship.
After her offending between February 2016 and May 2017, Charan enrolled in a law degree at Victoria University, which she has since completed.
But it’s unlikely she will ever be granted a certificate to practice because of her convictions.
Allen said it was ironic that since her offending Charan had volunteered as a qualified migration agent assisting many people to navigate the immigration system.
He said she had provided immense assistance to Edward McHugh, achieving his release from detention and assistance in achieving a Federal Court judgment that determined his detention was unlawful.
McHugh, who supported Charan in court, was raised believing he was an Australian citizen, supported by the fact he was enrolled to vote and had an Australian passport.
But he was adopted from the Cook Islands and after his visa was cancelled attempts were made to deport him.
“I acknowledge his presence here today. It is of great value in evidencing the great work you have done, ironically, since this offending behaviour,” Allen said.
He acknowledged she had experienced extreme hardship in her life and had no prior or subsequent offending.
He ordered she complete 250 hours of community work, receive mental health treatment and support, and be supervised for three years.