Friday, February 1, 2019

New Arrests in Southern California Birth Tourism Industry

At LAT, "Travel agents charged with bringing pregnant Chinese women to give birth on U.S. soil":

When pregnant Chinese women called You Win USA Vacation Services, they didn’t receive information on visiting Disneyland or the Grand Canyon.

Instead, they sought coveted advice on how to make a very different type of trip — one aimed at giving birth on U.S. soil so their children would be American citizens. You Win USA employees allegedly coached the women on the lies they should write on bogus applications for tourist visas and made sure the women traveled before their bellies swelled too much to conceal.

Fly first to Hawaii to blend in with the hordes of tourists, and list the Trump International Hotel in Honolulu as your destination, the women were told. Then, hop a flight to Los Angeles.

It was a scheme that federal authorities say went on for years. But Thursday, the operator of You Win USA and the owners of another allegedly illicit “birth tourism” company in Southern California were arrested and charged with an array of crimes including immigration fraud, money laundering and identity theft, according to indictments filed in U.S. District Court.

The arrests marked the culmination of a long-running investigation by agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service into three outfits operating for years in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and Orange County. They charged as much as $100,000 for their clandestine services — a price tag that authorities say Chinese parents-to-be readily paid to make sure their children would be citizens of what You Win USA’s promotional material called the “most attractive nationality.”

“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,” U.S. Atty. Nicola Hanna said in a statement. “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.”

Arrested Thursday morning were Dongyuan Li, 41, of Irvine, who was identified in court records as an executive at You Win USA Vacation Services in Irvine; as well as Michael Wei Yueh Liu, 53, of Rancho Cucamonga; and Jing Dong, 42, of Fontana, who authorities said owned and operated a company called USA Happy Baby in San Bernardino.

All three pleaded not guilty in court appearances Thursday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. Li was ordered to be held in custody pending a detention hearing next week. Liu and Dong can be released after they post $250,000 bonds.

Also indicted Thursday was Wen Rui Deng, 65, an American citizen officials accuse of running a Los Angeles agency named Star Baby Care, which authorities believe to have been the largest birth tourism operation in the U.S. She is believed to be living in China, authorities said...