A Chinese national living in California pleaded guilty to federal charges on Tuesday, and admitted running a lucrative "birth tourism" enterprise helping wealthy pregnant Chinese women have their babies in the U.S. to take advantage of birthright citizenship.
What are the details?
Dongyuan Li, 41, ran a business called You Win USA Vacation Services Corp., assisting clients from her home country in falsifying tourist documentation. According to court documents, Li's operation allegedly advertised that the U.S. was the "most attractive nationality," offering "years of free education, less pollution, retirement benefits and an easier way for an entire family to immigrate with an American-born child," the Los Angeles Times reported.
From 2013 to March 2015, the scheme provided assistance, room and board to roughly 500 Chinese women, charging anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 per client. Fox News reported that customers were even taught how to hide their pregnancies in the presence of U.S. Customs agents at ports of entry.
Li also admitted "clients were coached on how to pass U.S. consulate interviews in China as well, including by stating falsely that they were going to stay in the U.S. for only two weeks, when they really had planned to stay for up to three months to give birth," Fox reported.
Li, her husband, and her business partner raked in the dough, paying cash for a $2.1 million house and a $118,000 Mercedes-Benz. The Sacramento Bee reported that over the life of the scheme, Li received $3 million in international wire transfers from China.
As part of a plea deal, Li pleaded guilty to one count of immigration fraud and one count of visa fraud, and will forfeit $850,000, a $500,000 home, and several luxury cars. She is the first of 19 people implicated in the operation, and faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. Li's sentencing has been set for December.
U.S. Attorney's officials said other defendants are either pending trial or have gone on the lam, hiding in China.