A 38-year-old Perth woman has been jailed for six-and-a-half years after being convicted of multiple charges relating to extensive migration fraud. She is said to have obtained more than $300,000 from her unsuspecting clients.
The Chinese national masqueraded as a registered migration agent, charging numerous clients for services she did not deliver.
Some were charged fees for visa applications that were never lodged, resulting in them becoming unlawful non-citizens or unable to travel to Australia.
Clients she duped were vulnerable persons
According to the investigating authorities, many of the clients she duped were vulnerable persons due to their limited English-language skills and understanding of Australian migration law.
The woman first came to the attention of authorities in 2013, when about 30 foreign passports bound for Perth were intercepted in four international mail articles at the Melbourne Gateway Facility. It is a criminal offence in Australia to possess a foreign passport belonging to another person, which initiated a Department of Foreign Affairs investigation.
In 2014, the ABF entered the investigation in response to suspicions the woman was unlawfully acting as a migration agent, forging Department of Home Affairs documents and committing proceeds-of-crime offences.
Authorities seized thousands of documents
Eight complainants were identified, as well as more than 70 witnesses. Search warrants executed on the woman’s home and office saw the seizure of thousands of documents, numerous phones, computers and $30,000 in cash.
Among the items seized were forged Department of Home Affairs documents which the woman used to falsely inform visa applicants that they had been granted a visa.
Many of the fraud victims were unable to be identified or contacted as they are living overseas.
Following a five-week trial in the Perth District Court, the woman was convicted of all 12 charges she faced.
Minimum jail term of four-and-a-half years
Late last week she was sentenced to a total of six-and-a-half year’s jail, backdated to 26 November 2020, with a minimum term of four-and-a-half years before becoming eligible for parole.
The court also ordered the forfeiture of the $30,000 cash seized, and made reparation orders for the complainants totalling $188,235.
In Australia it is unlawful to provide immigration assistance, and unlawful to charge a fee for that assistance, unless registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.