Three arrests were made of “Birth Tourism” operators on Thursday morning, two of the three Inland Empire residents.
Not many have heard of “Birth Tourism” but it has been going on for many years making babies with Chinese citizen parent to be natural born U.S. Citizens. The way this works is the expecting Chinese parents travel to the United States, usually during their second trimester of pregnancy. The operators charge tens of thousands of dollars in order to help them to give birth in the United States.
Of the 19 people indicted, 16 are considered fugetives at this time.
The indictments charge operators and clients of three “maternity house” or “birthing house” schemes that were dismantled in March 2015 when federal agents executed 35 search warrants, which resulted from international undercover operations.
The operators touted the benefits of giving birth in the United States in comparison to China claiming the U.S. has the most attractive nationality, better air/less pollution, priority for U.S. government jobs. In addition, they said the United States has educational resources which are superior to those in China including free public education, a more stable political situation and the potential to receive your senior supplement benefits when you are living overseas.
The unsealed cases, 17 of them in all, contain criminal charges including immigration fraud and engaging in international money laundering. Some of the operators also committed fraud against property owners when leasing apartments and housing used for their “birth tourism” business.
“These cases allege a wide array of criminal schemes that sought to defeat our immigration laws – laws that welcome foreign visitors so long as they are truthful about their intentions when entering the country,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Statements by the operators of these birthing houses show contempt for the United States, while they were luring clients with the power and prestige of U.S. citizenship for their children. Some of the wealthy clients of these businesses also showed blatant contempt for the U.S. by ignoring court orders directing them to stay in the country to assist with the investigation and by skipping out on their unpaid hospital bills.”
The three indicted operated large operations in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. The three defendants include Dongyuan Li (李冬媛), 41, of Irvine; Michael Wei Yueh Liu (刘维岳), 53, of Rancho Cucamonga; and Jing Dong (董晶), 42, of Fontana. All three are charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, international money laundering and identity theft. Liu is also charged with filing three false tax returns.
According to the indictment, Li said that she operated an Orange County business called ‘You Win USA’. In advertisements, Li said that she had a 100-person team in China and in the United States and they had served more than 500 birth tourism clients. Operating by using 20 Irvine apartments, Li charged customers from $40,000 to $80,000. She also received $3 million in international wire transfers during a 2-year period. The indictment details communications in which Li referred to U.S. immigration authorities as “the foreigners” and also discussed whether to refund a downpayment because, once the customer found out “the baby is a girl, her husband arranged an abortion for her.”
According to court papers, Wen Rui Deng (邓文瑞), 65, a former Irvine resident, who is not believed to be in China operated out of 30 Rowland Heights apartments and 10 properties in Irvine. Through his Los Angeles County-based operation Star Baby Care according to their website provided services to 8,000 pregnant women from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan; 4,000 from China.
The final indictment was filed for the operators of USA Happy Baby Inc, Liu and Dong. The company was based in San Bernardino County charging VIP customers as much as $100,000. The clients were housed in apartments in Rancho Cucamonga and Irvine. USA Happy Baby is also accused of filing false tax returns which failed to report over $1.9 million received over three years.. The indictment also alleges that Liu and Dong used 14 different bank accounts to receive more than $3.4 million in international wire transfers from China during 2013 and 2014 alone.
“These cases allege a wide array of criminal schemes that sought to defeat our immigration laws – laws that welcome foreign visitors so long they are truthful about their intentions when entering the country,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Statements by the operators of these birthing houses show contempt for the United States, while they were luring clients with the power and prestige of U.S. citizenship for their children. Some of the wealthy clients of these businesses also showed blatant contempt for the U.S. by ignoring court orders directing them to stay in the country to assist with the investigation and by skipping out on their unpaid hospital bills.”
There are 16 fugitive defendants whose indictments were unsealed today. They are:
- Qiang Yan (闫强), 42, who is Dongyuan Li’s husband, was indicted in December 2018 on three counts of visa fraud for filing an application for an “O” visa premised upon being an “alien of extraordinary ability,” which falsely claimed that he had co-authored two books and attached fake copies of those books. The indictment naming his wife notes that when Yan was interviewed during a search of Li’s multi-million-dollar residence in Irvine, he told the federal agents that his birth tourism business investment was “chump change,” because he had more than $10 million in his bank accounts in China.
- Xiao Yan Liu (刘小燕), 39, who was indicted in November 2018 for two counts of visa fraud and one count of lying to federal law enforcement. According to her visa application, she was the “Chief Physician” at the Henan Shangqiu Power Supply Company Staff Hospital.
- Jun Xiao (肖俊), 30, and LongJing Yi (易珑静), 30, who were indicted in February 2018 on charges of conspiracy, visa fraud, obstruction of justice, and criminal contempt. According to their indictment, Xiao and Yi made false statements on their visa applications, namely that they would be staying in the United States for only 15 days. According to court documents in their case, Xiao and Yi paid only $4,600 of the $32,291 in hospital charges related to the birth of their baby. The indictments detail communications from Xiao after he had fled to China, where he continued to denigrate the Court’s Order requiring him to stay in the U.S.: “Anyway, I’m already home. U.S. can’t do anything to me.”
- Dongjiang He (贺东江), 46, was indicted in February 2018 for fleeing with his wife to China, in violation of a federal court order. On his visa application, He listed his occupation as “Government” and his position as “Project Manager and Secretary General” for the China Nonferrous Metals Techno Economic Research Institute, which is located in the Haidian District in Beijing. His wife, Zhichan Yu (余芝婵), 40, also was indicted in February 2018 on charges of visa fraud, obstruction of justice, and contempt of court after fleeing to China in violation of a federal court order.
- Jia Luo (罗佳), 30, was indicted in February 2018 for fleeing to China in violation of a federal court order. According to court documents, Luo lied on her visa application and lied to U.S. Customs officers in Hawaii when asked her if she was planning on having a baby in the United States.
- Renlong Chen (陈人龙), 34, and his wife Wei Wang (王伟), 33, were indicted in February 2018 for fleeing to China, in violation of federal court orders. Chen and Wang are accused of making false statements on their visa applications by stating they would be visiting the United States for only eight days, when they actually made arrangements to stay at a maternity house in Rancho Cucamonga for three months so that Wang could give birth in the United States.
- Jie He (何洁), 29, was indicted in February 2018 for fleeing to China in violation of federal court order. She allegedly made false statements on her visa application, including that she planned to stay in the United States for only 20 days, when she actually entered into a contract to pay approximately $50,000 to obtain a visa and stay in the United States for several months to give birth. According to court documents, Jie He told investigators that she flew into Las Vegas, rather than Los Angeles, because the Chinese maternity operator had advised her that it was easier to enter through Las Vegas.
- Eryun Zhang (张尔芸), 25; her husband, Liang Ni (倪梁), 25; and her mother, Ji Xu (徐激), 50, were indicted in February 2018 for fleeing to China in violation of federal court orders. According to court documents, Ni admitted that, during an interview conducted at the U.S. Consulate in China, he falsely stated that the purpose of their trip was for their honeymoon, rather than the true reason for Zhang to give birth in the United States.
- Chao Chen (陈超), 34, a partner in the You Win USA scheme, was indicted in December 2018 with one count of contempt of court for fleeing the U.S. while he was pending sentencing. Chen previously pleaded guilty to visa fraud, marriage fraud and tax fraud.
- Ji Zhu (朱洁), 31, who was indicted in March 2018 for one count of marriage fraud, for allegedly marrying a U.S. citizen to obtain U.S. citizenship, even though she really was married to Chao Chen. Zhu fled to China with Chao Chen, where they remain fugitives from justice.
The federal investigation into Dongyuan Li’s You Win USA scheme has resulted in seizure and/or forfeiture proceedings against three real properties with millions of dollars in equity, including her $2.1 million residence in Irvine; six vehicles, including four Mercedes Benz vehicles; more than $1 million from bank accounts; and many gold bars and coins.
“America’s way of life is not for sale,” said Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles. “HSI will aggressively target those who would make a mockery of our laws and our values to benefit and enrich themselves. No one needs to be reminded about the national security and public safety implications of visa fraud and the crimes associated with it. Anyone who would exploit our nation’s generosity and our legal immigration system should be on notice – they may end up being the ones to pay a very steep price.”
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