An Auckland woman is accused of preying on vulnerable family members by illegally charging them for immigration services.
Lealeifuaneva Linda Moala, 31, appeared in the Manukau District Court on Thursday charged with unlawfully asking for a fee for immigration advice. It is alleged she took payment from four family members and friends in the Tongan community.
The Immigration Advisers Authority brought the charges, two of which are under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act and one of which is under the Crimes Act.
The authority alleged Moala, while not being licensed nor exempt from the requirement to be license, asked for a fee for the provision of immigration advice.
It also alleged she obtained a payment by deception. Moala was remanded on bail and will reappear in court in March.
"The [allegations] by the IAA are another example of someone taking advantage of Tongan and Pacific people who are in a tough spot," Immigration Advisers registrar Catherine Albiston said.
"The IAA continues to raise awareness amongst Pacific communities in New Zealand, as well as in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, that unlawful immigration advice can cause significant stress and problems for visa applicants."
Anyone needing help with a visa application should only use a licensed immigration adviser or a person exempt from licensing requirements, such as a lawyer, she said.
Those found guilty of offering unlicensed immigration advice can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
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