An unqualified woman who posed as a barrister, solicitor and Home Office official to progress immigration applications has been jailed for five years.

Harvinder Kaur Thethi, 46, was found guilty of six counts of fraud by false representation in July and sentenced last week at Southwark Crown Court.

Operating from June 2013 to September 2014 in Hounslow, West London, Thethi obtained £68,000 from vulnerable people in payment for immigration services which were promised but not delivered. The fraudster, from Solihull in the West Midlands, would ingratiate herself to the victims and was treated as a daughter or sister by them, the court heard.

In sentencing, His Honour Judge Loraine-Smith said: ‘You decided to embark on a fantasy life, when you claimed to be a successful lawyer earning a large income. You were nothing of the sort.

‘The large amounts of money you obtained came entirely from money you had stolen from people you had befriended and cheated. People whose immigration status is precarious are very, very vulnerable. It is not surprising that if they found somebody they thought was a family friend, they could be convinced to part with large sums of money they could ill afford.’

This prosecution followed an investigation led by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner in partnership with Immigration Enforcement and the Metropolitan Police.

Deputy immigration services commissioner Dr Ian Leigh said it was vital to ensure that people seeking immigration advice are treated fairly by qualified people. ‘Ms Thethi was operating outside of the law, preying upon vulnerable victims without regard for their protection or the consequences of her criminal behaviour,’ he added. ‘I hope [her conviction] sends a clear deterrent message to anyone considering acting similarly.’