An Indian-origin woman described as a "bogus immigration lawyer" has been jailed for five years' after she was found guilty of six counts of fraud by false representation.
Harvinder Kaur Thethi, from the West Midlands region of England, had been convicted by Southwark Crown Court in London in July for falsely claiming to be a barrister, solicitor and a UK Home Office official with the ability to progress immigration applications.
Despite being unqualified in any of these fields, she went on to obtain GBP 68,000 from vulnerable people in payment for immigration related services, which were promised but not delivered, the court was told.
At a hearing on Thursday, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith sentenced the 46-year-old to five years behind bars for each of the six counts, to run concurrently.
"You decided to embark on a fantasy life, when you claimed to be a successful lawyer earning a large income. You were nothing of the sort," the judge said during the sentencing hearing this week.
"The large amounts of money you obtained came entirely from money you had stolen from people you had befriended and cheated," he noted.
The judge observed that people whose immigration status is precarious are "very, very vulnerable", which would make them susceptible to somebody they thought was a family friend and could be convinced to part with large sums of money they could ill afford.
Harvinder Kaur Thethi was found to have ingratiated herself to her victims and was, in many cases, treated as a daughter or sister. Her prosecution was the result of an investigation led by the UK's Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC), in partnership with Immigration Enforcement and the Metropolitan Police Service.
"You preyed on their vulnerability again and again... the investigation was thorough, fair, and - it is clear from the Victim Personal Statements - kind. I commend both officers in this case," the judge concluded.
The offences took place between June 1, 2013, and September 8, 2014 in Hounslow, west London. Harvinder Kaur Thethi had been remanded in custody pending a sentencing hearing in July.
Ian Leigh, Deputy Immigration Services Commissioner, said his team was delighted with the outcome of the case, which they hope would send a "clear deterrent message" to anyone considering acting similarly.
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