US issues federal indictments for Chinese 'birth tourism' schemes in California

Prosecutors on Jan. 31, released 17 indictments charging 19 Chinese individuals with crimes related to defrauding the US government and violating US immigration law

An arrest made Jan. 31 (Photo from US Department of Homeland Security)

An arrest made Jan. 31 (Photo from US Department of Homeland Security)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – U.S. Federal Prosecutors on Jan. 31 unsealed 17 indictments targeting 19 individuals linked to a multi-million dollar “birth tourism” criminal enterprise, following a series of undercover investigations by the Department of Homeland Security beginning in 2015.

The indictments allege coordinated illegal business operations across southern California involving “maternity houses” and international travel organizers catering to, and coaching Chinese mothers who sought to obtain birthright citizenship for their children.

Three suspects were arrested the morning of Jan. 31, while 16 suspects remain at large, many of whom have already returned to China.

The organizers behind the schemes allegedly charged customers tens of thousands of U.S. dollars for the service of assisting the women give birth in the United States. The charges against the defendants include “immigration fraud, international money laundering, and defrauding property owners.”

The three defendants arrested Jan, 31 were Dongyuan Li (李冬媛), Michael Wei Yueh Liu (刘维岳), Jing Dong (董晶), who are charged with “conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, international money laundering and identity theft.”

The indictment for Dongyuan Li alleges that her business advertised serving over 500 birth tourism customers. Li’s enterprise reportedly used 20 different apartments and would charge customers between US$40,000 and US$80,000 dollars each. She received over “$3 million in international wire transfers from China in just two years,” according to the report.

“The indictment details communications in which Li referred to U.S. immigration authorities as ‘the foreigners’ and also discussed whether to refund a down payment because, once the customer found out ‘the baby is a girl, her husband arranged abortion for her.’”

Other indictments for other business schemes allege payment of over US$100,000 for “VIP” customers. One indictment for Wen Rui Deng (鄧文瑞) says the scheme served over 8,000 customers over more than a decade, primarily customers from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

“Deng’s scheme served many customers alleged to be Chinese officials, including some associated with Chinese Central Television, China Telecom, and Bank of China.”

Nick Hanna, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California is quoted in the ICE news release.

“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.”

Names on the 16 fugitive defendants and information about their alleged crimes can be read in the ICE news release.

(Photo from U.S. Department of Homeland Security)