A lawyer who illegally acted as an immigration adviser has been jailed for more than three and a half years.

Richard James Martin, 49, was sentenced at Auckland District Court this morning after being found guilty at trial of 93 immigration-related charges, which came not long after he had been struck off as a lawyer.

Between May 2009 and September 2010 he provided immigration advice to 10 families through his company Richard Martin Immigration Limited.

He also forged lawyers' signatures on immigration documents and used licensed immigration advisers employed at his company to "sign off" visa applications of clients they had never met. Martin lost his ability to practice as a lawyer in 2009 after being sentenced to home detention on nine charges of using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage.

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The offending involved him stealing $17,850 from his employers, which also stemmed from immigration matters dealt with by the law firm.

Martin's lawyer Gary Gotlieb said his client had "lost everything" - his marriage, reputation and career.

He stressed the qualities of the man who had represented the Law Society overseas and had been caring for his elderly parents while awaiting sentence.

"He just wants to help people," Mr Gotlieb said.

"What happened? We don't know."

Psychiatric reports showed Martin may have suffered some depression but Judge Mary-Beth Sharp said there was nothing in there that persuaded her to discount his sentence.

"It would be completely inappropriate and unjust in every way for the court not to mark your offending, which was very serious and very lengthy... by anything other than a sentence of imprisonment," she said.

The victim impact statements from both lawyers and Martin's customers revealed the pain he caused.

"They have been badly duped by Mr Martin. They feel extremely let down," the judge said.

She believed to some extent he "had his head in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich" but described the offending as premeditated and directed at commercial gain.

Martin was jailed for three years and seven months and Judge Sharp said she was "extremely concerned" about the fate of his parents who refused to go to a care facility.

CHARGES

• 37 x Forgery

• 35 x Supplying false or misleading information to an immigration officer

• 11 x Asking for or receiving fees for immigration advice when neither licensed nor exempt

• 9 x Providing immigration advice when neither licensed nor exempt

• 1 x Holding out as an immigration adviser when neither licensed nor exempt