Feds Raid 20 Immigrant ‘Birth Hotels’ in Los Angeles – This’ll Blow Your Mind
In an unprecedented federal sting operation, the feds raided 20 ‘birth hotels’ in 3 California counties. The targets of the sting weren’t the women coming into the United States, but the masterminds of the scheme that make hundreds of thousands of dollars from this scam aimed at Chinese foreigners seeking the benefits of American citizenship for their progeny.
Some of the women pay as much as $100,000 to get into one of the luxury ‘birth hotels’.
Southern California apartment complexes that doubled as “maternity hotels” for Chinese women who want made-in-America babies were raided early Tuesday, capping an unprecedented federal sting operation, officials said.
NBC News was on the scene as Homeland Security agents swept into The Carlyle, a luxury property in Irvine, California, which housed pregnant women and new moms who allegedly forked over $40,000 to $80,000 to give birth in the United States.
Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for Los Angeles said, ‘It’s not necessarily illegal to come here to have the baby, but if you lie about your reasons for coming here, that’s visa fraud.’
There are several hundred ‘birth hotels’ to choose from on Chinese listing sites.
None of the women were arrested; they are being treated as material witnesses, and paramedics were on hand in case any of them went into labor during the sweep.
Instead, the investigation was aimed at ringleaders who pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars tax-free to help Chinese nationals obtain visas and then pamper them until they delivered in an American hospital at a discount, court papers show.
The women were counseled on how to hide their pregnancy during travel, what lies to tell to obtain a tourist visa, and to avoid suspicious immigration officials at the Los Angeles airport, instead, they should fly in through Hawaii, Las Vegas, or Korea.
All told, the feds raided 20 locations in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, targeting three competing birth tourism schemes, officials said. The suspected operators have not been charged but are being questioned.
The organizers who allegedly ran the Carlyle site, Chao Chen and Dong Li, used a website to drum up business, touting the benefits of a child with U.S. citizenship: 13 years of free education, low-cost college financial aid, less pollution, and a path for the entire family to emigrate when the child becomes an adult.
The women would be pampered by the handlers until their delivery date, and would get reduced rates at local hospitals.
The women’s handlers provided transportation for doctor visits and trips to restaurants and shops, the court papers say. An agent tailing one of the suspects followed them to Target and Babies R Us.
They were funneled to several Orange County hospitals to deliver, but they didn’t pay full price — approximately $25,000 — for medical services, officials said. Instead, they got reduced rates for the indigent, ranging from nothing to $4,000,the court papers say.
That translated into big losses for the hospitals. More than 400 babies linked to the scheme were born at just one facility in a two-year period, investigators said.
The investigators discovered that the parents of one baby born in April 2014 who paid the hospital just $4,000 were spending money at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel, Rolex and Louis Vuitton, using an account with almost a quarter of a million dollars in it.
The scam operators at the Carlyle added even more immigration fraud to the pile.
Li didn’t file a U.S. tax return and Chen didn’t declare hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds, the affidavit says. In addition, Chen and his wife, Jie Zhu committed marriage fraud, pretending to be divorced so they could get “green-card” marriages in the U.S., the feds charged.
Efforts to reach Chen, Zhu and Li by phone were unsuccessful. It was not clear if they have retained legal counsel.
But it wasn’t just what was going on at the Carlyle, there were other raids, too.
In addition to the operation at the Carlyle, the feds zeroed in on two other alleged schemes.
Wen Rui Deng, Li Yan Lang and Wen Shan Sun were accused of charging women $10,000 to $25,000 to put them up at the Pheasant Ridge apartments in Rowland Heights, where the “one dragon service” included baby nurses, the court papers say.
A company called USA Happy Baby, run by Michael Wei Yueh Liu and Jing Dong, set up at The Reserves apartments in Rancho Cucamonga, authorities charged.
The women were keen to have their ‘anchor babies’ born here because they knew that that would allow a ‘pathway to citizenship’ for them due to ‘chain migration’, not to mention the educational benefits that their kids would have.
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