A Sheepshead Bay woman who worked as a paralegal at a law firm has been indicted for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from prospective clients of the firm by falsely promising to provide legal services at a lower rate. In fact, it is alleged, she did no legal work for them and did not file any petitions. In two instances, it is alleged, she falsely stated that she was an attorney.
“We allege that this defendant tried to enrich herself by targeting individuals from our vulnerable immigrant communities as they attempted to comply with federal requirements," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. "In Brooklyn, we are committed to protecting our friends and neighbors in all immigrant communities from those who attempt to prey on them.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Zoya Shamilova, 38, of Sheepshead Bay. She was arraigned on a 17-count indictment in which she is charged with third-degree grand larceny, third-degree attempted grand larceny, first-degree immigrant assistance services fraud, first-degree attempted immigrant assistance services fraud, third-degree attempted coercion, practicing law without a license, and first-degree scheme to defraud. She was released without bail and ordered to return to court on January 17, 2024.
“As alleged, Zoya Shamilova lured vulnerable individuals with promises of cheaper legal services as they navigated the immigration process," Special Agent-in-Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, New York Ivan J. Arvelo said. "A wolf in sheep’s clothing, she is accused not only of stealing from her victims under the guise of legitimacy, but then threatening their livelihoods when they began to question her scheme. While our investigation found Shamilova charged each victim thousands of dollars, she is the person who will ultimately pay the greatest price. HSI New York’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force is unwavering in its commitment to protecting the public from bad actors preying upon defenseless communities.”
According to the indictment, from approximately May 2022 to August 2023, the defendant falsely claimed she could help the victims with various immigration services including obtaining green cards and, in one instance, Temporary Protected Status, in exchange for approximately $4,500 to $16,250. The victims who were from Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, India and Kazakhstan met the defendant when they sought consultations with the law firm where she was employed as a paralegal, Shepelsky Law Group, located at 2415 Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
After allegedly taking down payments from the victims, the defendant failed to file any petitions with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is alleged the defendant 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 an individual texted Marina Shepelsky, Esq., the founder and managing partner of the law firm, to follow up on the status of her case, saying she had met with the defendant to retain the firm. After Shepelsky looked into the matter and found numerous documents related to the alleged fraudulent actions, she fired the defendant and reported the incident to KCDA and other law enforcement agencies.
People who believe they have been victimized by this defendant are encouraged to contact the District Attorney’s Action Center at 718-250-2340 or send an e-mail to ShamilovComplaints@brooklynda.org.