Irvine-based immigration attorney Ken Zhiyi Liang has been arrested and charged with repeated witness tampering for assisting multiple material witnesses in fleeing the United States, in violation of orders in the March Chinese “maternity tourism” scandals.
Liang, 38, assisted in the successful flight of designated material witness Jun Xiao and his wife, LongJing Yi, who had not yet appeared before a judge to be determined a material witness. Liang also arranged the failed flight for a material witness on April 15, according to the affidavit in Liang’s case.
Liang was caught when one of the witnesses cooperated with federal agents. The Chinese national paid Liang $6,000 to orchestrate her escape from the country and arranged to pay three others an additional $3,000. Liang outlined an escape to China that would evade federal authorities. The affidavit in the case details “several video- and audio-recorded calls and meetings between Liang and the witness,” according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) release.
A judge had previously removed Liang as attorney of record for the material witness that cooperated with officials in catching Liang on April 17, over his objections, stated the DOJ release.
Twenty-nine material witnesses have been designated among three southern California maternity hotel operations raided in March and ordered to stay in the U.S. Six of the women and four men instead fled back to China, Breitbart News reported. Those ten individuals have since been charged with visa fraud, obstruction of justice and contempt of court. Xiao was among those. An eleventh was also charged, Xiao’s wife Yi, but as she had yet to be designated a material witness was charged only with visa fraud.
The two Liang successfully helped escape, Xiao and Yi, allegedly “…paid only $4,600 of the $32,291 in hospital charges from Yi’s giving birth at an area hospital.”
Maternity tourism clients allegedly skipped out on potentially $10 million in hospital bills, according to court documents.
The three maternity tourism schemes raided in March were paid up to $50,000 per case to assist Chinese nationals in lying to government officials to obtain visas and travel to the United States. Their purpose was to give birth and obtain U.S. citizenship for their babies, according to court documents.
Court documents in the case of maternity hotel company USA Happy Baby Inc. specifically noted: “Several of the customers of Lui and Dong’s immigration fraud scheme have been identified as being employed by the Chinese government, including in the provinces of Ningxia and Hanan, China.”
Parents were allegedly told their children could later return to the U.S. and assist them in obtaining U.S. citizenship. Court documents allege that between the three companies, approximately 8,000 women had been served since 1999.
Liang’s charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, should he be convicted.
Liang appeared in court Monday and bond was set at $100,000 according to the Orange County Register. However, due to the federal prosecutors’ strong insistence that Liang is a flight risk, the judge put a 48-hour hold on Liang’s release. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Chenwei Yang argued that Liang speaks fluent Mandarin and has traveled through much of China.
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