Russian-speaking paralegal from Brooklyn stole $38,000 from immigrants by groundlessly promising them green cards

Russian-speaking paralegal from Brooklyn stole $38,000 from immigrants by groundlessly promising them green cards

In New York, a woman misled migrants by claiming that for a fee she could help obtain a green card and assist with immigration services, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and New York Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Ivan Arvelo announced Nov. 13 charges against a Sheepshead Bay woman who worked as a paralegal at a law firm for stealing thousands of dollars from potential clients of the firm. by fraudulently promising to provide legal services at a lower price.

In fact, she allegedly did not do any legal work for them and did not file any petitions. On two occasions, she allegedly lied about being a lawyer. According to preliminary information, she embezzled more than $38,000 from people she promised to help.

At someone else’s expense

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “We allege that this defendant tried to enrich herself at the expense of people from our vulnerable immigrant communities who were trying to meet federal requirements. In Brooklyn, we are committed to protecting our friends and neighbors from all immigrant communities from those who seek to profit from them.”

Special Agent Arvelo said: “Zoya Shamilova allegedly lured vulnerable people with promises of cheap legal services during the immigration process. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, she is accused of not only defrauding her victims under the guise of legality, but also of threatening their livelihoods when they began to question her scheme.”

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Arvelo said their investigation revealed that Shamilova charged each victim thousands of dollars and noted that she will ultimately pay the biggest price. “HSI New York’s Identity and Benefits Fraud Task Force is committed to protecting the public. from unscrupulous agents preying on defenseless populations.”

Today, Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Kim Petersen indicted Zoya Shamilova, 38, of Sheepshead Bay, on 17 counts of third-degree grand theft, third-degree attempted grand theft, and first-degree immigrant services fraud. , attempted immigrant services fraud in the first degree, attempted coercion in the third degree, practicing law without a license and scheme to defraud in the first degree. She was released on bail and ordered to return to court on January 17, 2024.

Photo: IStock

Green card in exchange for dollars

The district attorney said that according to the indictment, from approximately May 2022 to August 2023, the defendant falsely represented that she could assist victims with various immigration services, including obtaining green cards and, in one case, temporary protected status, in exchanges ranging from $4,500 to $16,250. The victims – immigrants from Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, India and Kazakhstan – met the accused when they sought advice from the law firm Shepelsky Law Group, where she worked as a paralegal.

Having received advance payment from the victims, the defendant did not file a single petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. She made excuses or simply ignored calls and text messages from clients asking for updates on the status of their cases. It is alleged that the accused threatened to report two undocumented individuals to immigration authorities after they questioned her about her work on their behalf.

The alleged fraud came to light after one of the victims sent Marina Shepelski, the founder and managing partner of the law firm, a message asking her to follow up on her case, saying that he had met with Shamilova to conclude an agreement with the firm. After Shepelski investigated the case and discovered numerous documents related to the alleged fraudulent activities, she fired the employee and reported the incident to KCDA and other law enforcement agencies.

People who believe they have been victims of this type should contact the District Attorney’s Action Center at 718-250-2340 or email [email protected].

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