‘Adviser’ preyed on vulnerable
Two women who went to a Porirua man to help get visas to stay in New Zealand lost their money and ended up back where they started, in Samoa.
One woman’s husband was still in New Zealand and she hoped to be reunited with him, but doubted that was possible.
She was introduced to Menefata Toso through a member of the church where he was a deacon.
In the Porirua District Court on Wednesday, Toso, 70, also known as Limu M F Asiata, was sentenced to 10 months’ home detention and ordered to repay the women $5410 at $20 per week.
Toso pleaded guilty to 10 charges of providing immigration advice without a licence and receiving fees for immigration advice while knowing he was not licensed.
Judge Jan Kelly said Immigration New Zealand had told Toso in September 2013 that he was not a licensed adviser and would need to be licensed, but he continued to give immigration advice anyway. He had a company Mene T Consulting Agency Ltd.
One of his victims was a Samoan overstayer who paid him $3500 to help her with visa applications, including $1300 for him to lobby a government minister on her behalf. Her applications were declined. Another Samoan woman went to Toso for help for herself and her family in November 2013.
He recommended her son get a New Zealand partner to help his application, and the family handed over their passports to him.
They trusted him to submit visa applications on their behalf and he told them he was licensed.
By April 2014 her temporary visa had expired, she learnt she and her children were overstayers, and that no visa applications had been made.
Toso’s lawyer, Peter Foster, said at an earlier hearing that Toso had worked hard on behalf of the people he thought he was helping.
He contended that Toso had not given inaccurate or incompetent advice; he was simply unlicensed.
However, the judge took issue with that, and said his offending had a ‘‘huge impact on particularly vulnerable victims’’.
Immigration advisers had to be licensed to protect the people coming to them for advice, Immigration Advisers Authority’s Catherine Albiston said in a statement after Toso pleaded guilty.
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