Woman pleads guilty after taking advantage of Pacific Islanders in 'tough spot

A woman has pleaded guilty to giving unlawful immigration advice after "taking advantage" of friends and family.

Lealeifuaneva Linda Moala appeared in south Auckland's Manukau District Court on Tuesday answering to charges of unlawfully asking for a fee for immigration advice, and taking payment.

Moala had taken payment from four of her family members and friends in the Tongan community.

She asked for a fee for the provision of immigration advice knowing she was neither licensed nor exempt.

Moala also pleaded guilty to one charge under the Crimes Act 1961 of obtaining a payment by deception.

She led the victims to believe she was an immigration officer when she was not, a statement from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said.

Moala was remanded on bail to reappear before the court for sentencing on June 28.

Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) registrar Catherine Albiston said Moala's offending was "another example of someone taking advantage of Tongan and Pacific people who are in a tough spot". 

It's hoped cases like Moala's will "raise awareness amongst Pacific communities in New Zealand, as well as in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, that it is not acceptable to provide unlawful immigration advice", she said.

Anyone needing help with a visa application should only use a licensed immigration adviser or exempt person, like a lawyer, she said.

Individuals found breaking immigration laws can face up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

The IAA's online register of licensed advisers is available for those who want to search for a licensed immigration adviser.