An Auckland man who impersonated an immigration officer during a series of ruses, stealing more than $220,000 from his victims, has been jailed.
Vincent Smith, 29, appeared in the Auckland District Court this morning before a skeptical Judge Russell Collins, who seemed less than impressed with Smith's excuses and false promises throughout the case.
The Burswood resident was charged and pleaded guilty last year to three counts of obtaining by deception and two charges of impersonating an immigration officer.
Today he was jailed for two years and four months.
During 2016 and last year he defrauded four people, claiming he worked for Immigration New Zealand and was advancing their visa applications.
Smith's fist victim arrived in New Zealand in September 2014 on a student visa, but in March 2016 the visa was terminated after the student's school attendance dropped.
He then met Smith in early 2017, the court heard.
The fraudster claimed to be an immigration adviser and said he would help with the student's visa issues. However, Smith then demanded six payments - totalling $27,000.
Each time, Smith would meet the student outside the immigration office in Manukau to collect the cash.
His next target was also a student who had applied to study nursing at a New South Wales institution.
She came to know of Smith as an immigration official between January and March last year, the court heard.
"You advised her you were an immigration officer from Australia who had recently moved to New Zealand," Judge Collins said.
A total of $97,844 was stolen from the woman, with Smith claiming the majority of the money was used to pay for "fees", including a fake payment to the Australian embassy.
Again he met his victim outside the Manukau immigration office.
Then between May and June last year, Smith scammed a British couple out of nearly $100,000 as they sought assistance with their visas.
Smith had noticed the husband and wife's advertisement for a rental car and phoned them, introducing himself as an immigration officer.
The couple disclosed that they had been having difficulties obtaining a New Zealand visa due to the wife's traffic conviction, the court heard.
Smith said he was willing to help and would access their immigration files.
He initially asked for a $8500 fee, before demanding money on 19 occasions totalling $98,000.
Smith also claimed he needed the money to help pay a UK "clearance fee", which saw the couple deposit $15,000 into his bank account on June 15.
As with his other victims, Smith asked for their passports and it was only after the UK couple failed to have theirs returned did they go to police.
After Smith pleaded guilty he was due to be sentenced in December.
However, Judge Collins adjourned the hearing at the fraudster's request.
"I only adjourned sentencing, Mr Smith, on the 15th [of December] because of your indication at that point that you were going to make substantial reparation to your victims," the judge said today.
At the next scheduled hearing last month Smith failed to show and offered the excuse that he was suffering from an apparent case of temporary blindness.
His solicitor, Maxine Pitch, said at the time that he was suffering from "functional visual loss".
"He's got a blurry eye, and that's as specific as it gets, sir," Pitch told Judge Collins.
Judge Collins replied: "If Mr Smith thinks that medical wellness would avoid a warrant [to arrest] on the 8th of February, then I would need to see a photograph of him with a neck-to-foot cast."
Today, Pitch said her client also believed he was suffering from bowel cancer, but there was no medical evidence to suggest this.
"I am far from convinced that your health problems are such that sentencing should be adjourned today," Judge Collins said, adding that any conditions can be adequately managed by Corrections.
He said the fraudster, who attempted to shift some responsibility to the victims, has had a "sad and chilling" impact "on those most unfortunate people".
"I simply don't believe that you are genuinely remorseful," the judge said.
"You say you can obtain a $100,000 loan to make a reparation contribution to your victims. I'm not persuaded that there is any substance in that in all," he told Smith.
Judge Collins continued: "There's no explanation to where all that [stolen] money went."
The court heard there was no prospect of any meaningful reparation, with the police prosecutor confirming that no payments have been made.