A former solicitor banned from practice nine years ago has been jailed for posing as an immigration lawyer for financial gain.

Flora Mendes was jailed for seven-and-a-half years after exploiting at least 19 victims who thought they were using a legitimate lawyer who would help secure them leave to remain in the UK. The Home Office has now seized more than £700,000 in assets she gained from her deception.

Mendes submitted fraudulent immigration applications which had no chance of succeeding in exchange for payment. These were traced back to her by the Home Office which launched an investigation and which culminated in her sentencing at St Albans Crown Court last week.

Mendes had been struck off in 2015 after she was convicted of providing immigration advice whilst suspended from running a firm. She continued to make immigration applications despite have no licence and a criminal record.

Mendes, from Luton, had practised under the firm name of Arch’s Law after being suspended in January 2013.

When handing down the sentence, the Home Office reported that the judge noted the defendant’s repeat offending.

Judge Geoffrey Payne told her: ‘You abused a position of power over these vulnerable people … They came to you because they thought you were qualified and suitable person to provide immigration advice to them.’

It has been reported that Mendes made up fake addresses in Grenfell Tower as part of her scheme to convince victims she was a legitimate lawyer.

Andrew Radcliffe of the Home Office’s criminal and financial investigations team, said: ‘The strong sentence is testament to our efforts to clamp down on these unregulated advisers through targeted operations.’

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