Marriage scammer to stay in Australia for sentencing

For the second time, Immigration New Zealand has stymied the sentencing of a marriage scam fraudster by refusing her entry into the country.

The sentencing was meant to take place in the Christchurch District Court today, but the offender was still in Australia after being refused a visitor’s visa.

Instead, the sentencing will have to go ahead with the woman, 60-year-old Li Jun Xue, appearing by video-link from Sydney.

Judge Tom Gilbert set June 23 for the sentencing, and indicated that he had in mind an emotional harm reparation payment to the victim, and a fine, since a financial penalty was the only practical sentence that could be enforced for someone outside New Zealand.

When she is sentenced, it will be a year and a day since Xue was found guilty by Judge Gilbert at a judge-alone trial on a charge of obtaining $35,000 by deception.

She had arranged a newspaper advertisement offering a woman for companionship and possible marriage.

An older Wellington man answered the advertisement and paid the $35,000 before learning that the 45-year-old woman he had been introduced to, was already married. Xue and a man described as her husband had been witnesses at her wedding in Woollongong.

The scam victim was then told that a divorce could be arranged if he paid another $10,000.

Xue lives in Australia and was allowed to return there on bail. She has repaid the $35,000 to the victim since the trial.

Xue tried to return to Christchurch in January for a scheduled sentencing, but defence counsel Alister James explained that she had bought a ticket and was then told that Immigration New Zealand had told Qantas that she would not be allowed into New Zealand because of her fraud conviction. She was unable to board the aircraft.

Now she has been declined a visitor’s visa on the grounds that she does not have the funds to support herself while in New Zealand. Mr James said that was unusual, and the visa application did not have any section on it that required those details. She had agreed to be sentenced by video-link instead.

Judge Gilbert said it would be better to sentence her by video-link rather than issue an arrest warrant which would remain in the system and be executed if she ever did return to New Zealand.

He said it was the fourth time her sentencing had been scheduled, but he accepted “that she has tried hard to return to put an end to this matter”. He said he had looked at the legislation and believed he was entitled to conduct a video-link sentencing with someone overseas.

He asked Mr James to check that a link-up could be made in Sydney for the sentencing. He said: “This has been dragging on for a fair while so I want to make sure it happens.”

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