Federal arrest warrants were issued for eleven Chinese nationals last week, targeting clients of so-called “maternity tourism” businesses who had fled back to China after being ordered to stay in the U.S. as material witnesses. None of the the owners of the three maternity tourism operations raided in early March have yet been charged for any crime, according to the Orange County Register.
Federal law enforcement officials had executed 37 search warrants between Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in connection with the maternity tourism schemes, according to the U.S. Attorney of the Central District of California. Breitbart News previously reported on court documents that alleged the three companies had served some 8,000 women since 1999.
Maternity tourism businesses market to foreign nationals that wish to procure U.S. citizenship for their children. After paying up to $50,000, the pregnant women in this case were allegedly counseled how to lie in order to obtain a visa and travel to the U.S. to give birth before returning to their home country. Owners allegedly suggested that children born in the U.S. would be able to return to the country and assist their parents in obtaining citizenship as well.
Twenty-nine foreign national pregnant women and family members were ordered to stay in the U.S. as material witnesses in the investigation into the three schemes.
Six of the women and four of the men ignored those orders and fled back to China. Those ten are charged with visa fraud, obstruction of justice and contempt of court.
An 11th Chinese national was charged only with visa fraud, as she had not been ordered to remain in the U.S. as a material witness. She did succeed in giving birth before returning to China.
Lying to government officials in order to obtain a visa is illegal, while coming to the U.S. in order to give birth and obtain American citizenship for the child is not.
Court documents pertaining to the operation of maternity tourism scheme USA Happy Baby Inc. specifically noted that “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.”
Visa fraud charges come with a maximum 25-year federal prison sentence if defendants are convicted. Another maximum five years could accompany a sentence for obstruction of justice.
The defendants named are all believed to be currently outside the U.S. and could be arrested if they return. Their children, however, could return without consequence.
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