A licensed immigration adviser, who was convicted of being a party to exploiting an unlawful employee, now faces sanctions for dishonesty.

A complaint against Maria Socorro Angela Ortiz has been upheld by the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal, and sanctions against her are being considered.

Ortiz had acted for a Filipino client and obtained a work visa in July 2014 for him to do farm work in New Zealand, but he left the job and was employed by Ortiz's husband as a hairdresser.

The client had a visa to do farm work, but had worked unlawfully and was underpaid at his immigration adviser's husband's hair salon. Photo / File
The client had a visa to do farm work, but had worked unlawfully and was underpaid at his immigration adviser's husband's hair salon. Photo / File

Despite failing to get a visa for her client to work as a hairdresser, the client started work at the salon in July 2015.


He lived and worked there six to 10 hours daily, seven days a week, without being paid wages.

When he asked for updates about his visa application, Ortiz and her husband told him they had not heard back from Immigration New Zealand and advised him that it was fine to work while his application was being assessed.

INZ suspected the client had provided false or forged documents relating to both his dairy and hairdressing work experience.

But Ortiz wrote an email to the agency blaming the staff of the recruiter he had earlier used and that his real skill was a barber. She made an appeal on humanitarian considerations for the waiver of character requirements.

From September that year, Ortiz agreed that the client was given an allowance of $40 a week by a salon employee instead of buying him food. The client was also given cash on a number of occasions totalling $1350.

He stopped work in November 2015 after being handed a copy of an INZ letter stating he was not permitted to work at the salon, and was given $60 cash and told to leave the salon by Ortiz who believed INZ might visit the premises.

Following an INZ investigation, seven charges were laid against Ortiz, six of them jointly with her husband. These include exploitation of an unlawful employee, aiding and abetting, and providing false or misleading information.

Ortiz was sentenced to four months of community detention, 100 hours of community work and ordered to pay $8850 in reparation, or half of what the client was owed.


Her husband was sentenced on three charges of exploitation to five months' home detention and ordered to pay the other half of what was owed to the client.

A complaint against Ortiz was made to the tribunal by the Immigration Advisers Authority, alleging Ortiz had breached the Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct 2014.

The tribunal upheld parts of the complaint including that Ortiz had withheld a visa letter from INZ telling the client he was not entitled to work, and that she had engaged in dishonest and misleading behaviour in claiming to INZ that the client was a volunteer and attempting to procure a letter from him confirming this.

"I find Ms Ortiz told INZ that he was a volunteer without compensation. This was false. He was provided with accommodation, food or a cash allowance for food, and also cash lump sums from time to time," tribunal chair David Plunkett said.

"The behaviour of Ms Ortiz is dishonest and misleading."

Ortiz, whose company name was NZ Lifeways Group Ltd, was refused a renewal of her licence by the Immigration Advisers Authority in June.

The tribunal found she had breached the Licensed Immigration Advisers Code of Conduct.

"As the complaint has been upheld, the tribunal may impose sanctions," Plunkett added.

Both INZ and Ortiz have been given until September 20 to make their submissions.