A Perth woman who posed as a registered migration agent has been jailed for six-and-a-half years and ordered to pay $188,235 following a joint investigation by the Australian Border Force and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
A joint statement released by the ABF, DFAT and the Australian Federal Police on Sunday revealed the 38-year-old Chinese national had received more than $300,000 from her clients — many of whom haven’t been identified or contacted due to living overseas.
The fraudster had charged her clients fees for visa applications that were never lodged, resulting in the clients becoming unlawful non-citizens or unable to travel to Australia. Many of the fraud victims had limited English language skills and understanding of Australian migration law.
Authorities first became aware of the woman in 2013, when about 30 foreign passports bound for Perth were intercepted at the Melbourne Gateway Facility, sparking an investigation by DFAT’s Passport Fraud and Compliance Section.
The ABF and DFAT launched a joint investigation into the woman in 2014, identifying eight complainants and more than 70 witnesses. A search of the woman’s home and office saw the seizure of numerous phones, computers, and $30,000 cash.
It also uncovered thousands of documents, some of which were fake Department of Home Affairs documents that the woman used to tell visa applicants they had been granted a visa.
Following a five-week trial in the Perth District Court, the woman was convicted of all 12 charges she faced, including receiving a fee for providing immigration assistance when not a migration agent, dealing with proceeds of crime worth more than $10,000, and possessing foreign travel documents.
On Thursday she was sentenced to six-and-a-half years jail, with a minimum term of four-and-a-half years before becoming eligible for parole. The judge also ordered the forfeiture of the $30,000 cash seized, and made reparation orders for the complainants totalling $188,235.
ABF Commander for Operations West James Copeman said the ABF wouldn’t tolerate fake migration agents providing unlawful services and misleading advice.
“Maintaining the integrity of Australia’s migration program is paramount for our community and those seeking to become part of it,” he said in a statement.