A Winnipeg man who falsified bank records and other documents to help would-be immigrants secure entry to Canada has been sentenced to two years of house arrest.
Chinenye Alozie, 35, pleaded guilty to acting as an unauthorised immigration consultant and misrepresenting or withholding facts on immigration applications, offences under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
According to Winnipeg Free Press, a court heard the offences involved Alozie’s dealings with more than 60 foreign nationals, most of them students, between 2014 and 2019.
Alozie came to the attention of the Canadian Border Services Agency in late 2018 following reports he had been advertising his services to foreign students online.
Chinenye Alozie pleaded guilty to acting as an unauthorised immigration consultant and misrepresenting or withholding facts on immigration applications. (Supplied)
Alozie “is not a licensed immigration consultant, nor is he a lawyer,” Crown attorney Matthew Sinclair told provincial court Judge Stacy Cawley at a sentencing hearing Tuesday. “He is not entitled to represent people with respect to their applications.”
A look into Alozie’s bank records found deposits of $90,000 in 2016 and $120,000 in 2017 from people believed to be foreign nationals, Sinclair said. An investigation by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada found 52 deposits were from people applying to come to Canada as temporary students, workers or visitors.
Records provided to the border services agency showed Alozie used his personal credit cards to pay the government fees of 61 immigration applicants between 2014 and 2018.
A search of Alozie’s home in June 2019 uncovered evidence he aided 20 clients in producing false bank statements for their immigration applications and “assisted in coming up with fictitious storylines or personal histories to increase the likelihood of (their) application being approved,” Sinclair said.
Five of Alozie’s clients were allowed entry to Canada on the strength of their fraudulent immigration applications, Sinclair said.
Alozie, a Nigerian-born father of four, owns a restaurant and earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Manitoba in 2015.
It was while at university that Alozie was contacted by several Winnipeg schools “and essentially asked to help recruit students to attend school in the city, said defence lawyer Marc Zurbuchen.
“I got caught up with a lot of pressure to make people succeed… and achieve their goals,” Alozie told court. “Initially, I was just helping my classmates, but when I successfully helped them, then they told their friends and their brothers and the pressure started to build up.”
Alozie’s sentence, which included a $29,000 fine, was jointly recommended by the Crown and defence. Cawley said the sentence was appropriate, but told Alozie it was important that he acknowledge his actions weren’t wholly altruistic.
“You were benefiting financially from this, it wasn’t just good intentions,” Cawley said. “What you did was motivated at least in part by greed.”
Alozie agreed that was so.
In Canada, consultants must be a member of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants, which keeps an online registry of licensed professionals.
Fraud targeting newcomers is commonplace in the world of immigration services, said Bhagwant Batth, an immigration consultant with Kanwest Immigration Services in Winnipeg.
He has worked in the industry for more than 15 years and heard many horror stories from immigrants who’ve been taken advantage of, he said.
“I feel offended when I hear of people defrauding immigrants. It brings a bad name to our immigration community,” Batth said. “This kind of thing is very prevalent.”