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Unlicensed immigration adviser sentenced to home detention

Media release

15 July 2016

A Porirua man was sentenced to ten months’ home detention at the Porirua District Court on 13 July 2016.  The sentencing came after the man pleaded guilty in April to ten charges laid against him by the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA).

The charges related to Menefata Toso (also known as Limu M F Asiata) of Mene T Consulting Agency Ltd operating as an unlicensed immigration adviser within the Samoan community. Mr Toso pleaded guilty to four charges of providing immigration advice without a licence; three charges of holding himself out as a licensed immigration adviser; and three charges of receiving fees for the provision of immigration advice.

The Registrar of the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), Catherine Albiston said “The IAA was set up to promote and protect the interests of people receiving New Zealand immigration advice.This is a great result for the Pacific community.”

Mr Toso provided immigration advice to Samoan nationals trying to obtain lawful immigration status in New Zealand. 

In the first instance, Mr Toso offered to lodge an application for permanent residency for his victim. He presented an agreement outlining fees and terms of payment, and also asked her to collect reference letters to support her visa application. Mr Toso lodged multiple requests for visas for the victim, who in total paid him over $3,500 for his unlawful services. Judge Kelly noted that the victim felt betrayed when she found out he did not have the appropriate licence as she trusted Mr Toso to do the work. She felt that Mr Toso took advantage of her simplicity and innocence.

In the second instance, Mr Toso offered to help the victim and her two children with their immigration matters. The woman paid around $1,860 to Mr Toso who told her that he had a licence to do immigration work and gave examples of his experience.  In spite of numerous representations, Mr Toso was unsuccessful in obtaining visas for the family. The offending caused significant financial harm to the victim.The woman borrowed money from her family to pay Mr Toso, only to find out from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) that her visa had been refused and she had become an overstayer in New Zealand. Mr Toso then advised the woman to appeal INZ’s decision by writing to the Minister of Immigration. The appeal to the Minister of Immigration was not successful.

“Unfortunately, there are people who operate unlawfully and are unlicensed. Both of Mr Toso’s victims were led to believe that he was allowed to provide immigration advice, when in fact he was not licensed to do so. This is a strong reminder that when seeking New Zealand immigration advice, it’s important to always use a licensed adviser or an exempt person. Licensed immigration advisers are immigration specialists; they must meet competency standards and follow a code of conduct.”
“A free public register of all licensed advisers is available on the IAA website. You can also ask to see the person’s licence.”

In sentencing, Judge Kelly stated that the aggravating factors were that Mr Toso was operating a consultancy business and the offending demonstrated a commercial element. INZ informed Mr Toso in Sep 2013 that he was not a licensed immigration adviser and would need to be licensed to continue to act in that capacity. However, he continued to provide advice. Judge Kelly said his offending had a huge impact on particularly vulnerable victims and there was a breach of trust in Mr Toso’s dealings with the victims.
Mr Toso was also ordered to repay his victims at the rate of $20 per week.

Ms Albiston stated that the IAA encouraged anyone who has received immigration advice from someone who is not licensed or exempt to come forward and speak to us. “The IAA is separate to Immigration New Zealand and contacting the IAA will not affect anyone's visa status.”

A free guide to licensed immigration advisers is available in Tongan, Samoan, and other languages on the IAA website.