Justice officials are seeking a sentence of two years house arrest and a $100,000 fine for a Winnipeg man who provided what border officials described as an illegal "one-stop-shop immigration service."
Hae Suk Yoon, 68, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of providing paid immigration consulting services without a licence.
Yoon was warned years before his arrest that he needed to be a registered immigration consultant in order to charge a fee for his services, but "persisted until he was caught red-handed by the government," Crown attorney Michael Foote told Judge Alain Huberdeau.
A lengthy investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency revealed Yoon, over the course of six years, had provided immigration services to over 380 foreign nationals, primarily from Korea, and 57 businesses, earning a total of $347,000.
"Immigrants are among the most vulnerable people in Canada," Foote said. "They have to know an immigration consultant is going to be trustworthy, licensed, and subject to regulation in Canada. That is the least they can expect."
Targeted 'very vulnerable clients': Crown
Court heard Yoon first came to the attention of the CBSA in April 2009 after Yoon accompanied three Korean nationals to the Emerson border crossing to seek work permits.
"At that time, Mr. Yoon was asked if he was being paid as a consultant and he said that he was not," Foote said.
But further discussion with one of the foreign nationals revealed Yoon had charged him $300 for his services that day.
Advised that he would not be able to represent clients without a licence, "Yoon indicated that he understood and would do what he needed to do to be legal," Foote said.
'This was a very lucrative business with very vulnerable clients.' - Crown attorney Michael Foote
Two years later, in what was described as a follow-up investigation, a CBSA investigator discovered a website for restaurant help that listed H.S. Yoon Consulting as a placement agency. An ad for H.S. Yoon Consulting was also found on a South Korean social media website.
A three-year investigation ensued, during which time investigators were able to link the files of 106 foreign nationals to Yoon's Winnipeg residential address.
A search warrant executed at Yoon's William Avenue home "revealed he had been operating what the Canada Border Services Agency described as a one-stop-shop immigration service for certain businesses located in Manitoba and from foreign nationals from Korea to work at these businesses," Foote said.
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Yoon kept detailed records, all of which had to be translated from Korean, revealing he charged his clients as much as $5,500 for his services.
"This was a very lucrative business with very vulnerable clients that clearly has the effect of undermining the integrity of the Canadian immigration system, and a message has to go out that this cannot be tolerated," Foote said.
'He wanted to help people in his community'
Defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg recommended Yoon be sentenced to one year house arrest and fined $30,000.
Yoon immigrated to Canada in 1976 and worked as a university lab technician for 25 years before retiring in 2005.
"Before retiring, he saw a lot of new immigrants, particularly Korean, coming to Winnipeg," Roitenberg told court.
Yoon became a sought-after resource for immigrants needing information and advice about how to adapt and live in their new home, Roitenberg said. Over time, Yoon started charging for his services.
"He wanted to help people in his community and he wanted to be compensated for his time," Roitenberg said.
Yoon will return to court for sentencing at a later date.