Two men have been charged with acting as phony immigration consultants in Winnipeg, the Canada Border Services Agency announced Friday.
Chinenye (Victor) Alozie, 33, of Winnipeg, has been charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with getting paid while acting as an unauthorized immigration consultant, as well as with counselling clients to misrepresent their circumstances on applications for immigration.
The CBSA says the allegations stem from incidents over an almost five-year span: July 2014 to June 2019.
Alozie also faces a charged of attempted fraud under $5,000. He is to appear in court July 13.
In a separate case, Zhihao Jia, 26, formerly of Winnipeg, is facing three immigration act charges he collected fees as an unauthorized immigration consultant and, while representing clients, put false and misleading information on their immigration forms, and misrepresented facts.
The alleged incidents ocurred February 2017 to April 2019.
Last year, CBC reported Jia, who had been operating Jiatoo Immigration Consulting on Pembina Highway, abruptly closed, allegedly leaving several Chinese immigrants out thousands of dollars.
Jia is to appear in court July 27.
Only authorized representatives can be hired to represent immigrants. The list includes: lawyers and paralegals, notaries, and citizenship or immigration consultants who are members of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council.
Tom Denton, longtime head of Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, which sponsors refugees to come to Canada, said such allegations these put a black eye on the legal immigration and refugee process.
"You have to do these things in accordance with the law," Denton said. "We believe in following the rules. We don't always agree with the rules, but we follow them."
Denton, who said he didn't know any of the circumstances in either of the cases, hopes there was at least "skewered motivation."
"They're trying to help people — I'll give them the benefit of a doubt," he said. "They're trying to rescue people and give them a new life here, but they do have to do it in accordance with the rules."
Brad Wozny, acting regional director general for CBSA Prairie region, said in a statement: "Our country's immigration system is based on fairness and equal opportunity.... The charges announced (Friday) send a clear signal that taking advantage of immigrants for financial gain will not be tolerated."
Luke Reimer, a CBSA spokesman, couldn't say if the two cases point to a growing problem with illegal immigration consultants, but said they join four individuals that have been charged in recent years in Manitoba.
"Violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act threaten the integrity of Canada's borders and immigration system," Reimer said.
"The CBSA takes this issue very seriously, working closely with its partners to identify, investigate, and prosecute those engaging in IRPA violations to the full extent of the law."
In three of the other four cases, which have already been dealt with in the courts, the penalties have included a one-year conditional sentence, a 15-month jail sentence and a fine of $55,000, and a 4 1/2-year prison sentence with a restitution order of $381,600.
The case of Vladimir Bibilov, who pleaded guilty to two charges in December, hasn't been dealt with yet because he didn't show up in court last month for sentencing. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.