Dongyuan Li was not your average entrepreneur. The Chinese national pleaded guilty in September to crimes related to her operation of a multi-million dollar “birth tourism” operation that serviced wealthy clients and members of China’s communist government.
Nor was Li your average criminal conspirator. In fact, she earned the distinction of being one of three ringleaders to have “the first-ever federal criminal charges” brought against them, as well as their customers. However, a federal judge decided on Monday that a mere 10 months was sentence enough and ordered her release from prison.
Li was facing a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison, but U.S. District Judge James V. Selna rejected the prosecution’s 33-month sentence recommendation saying that more evidence of visa fraud might have merited a longer sentence.
Exactly what did Li do to warrant such leniency?
According to the Justice Department:
- She charged more than 500 “customers” between $40,000 and $80,000 and then she and her employees coached them on how to answer immigration officials’ questions when entering the U.S., particularly how to conceal their pregnancies;
- She advised her wealthy clients to fly first from China to Hawaii and then from Hawaii to Los Angeles International Airport, thus avoiding greater scrutiny;
- And, she received more than $3 million in wire transfers from China during the two years she ran You Win USA Vacation Services Corp., which she used to rent 20 “birthing houses” in Orange County, California.
Now, Li did generously agree after her plea to forfeit more than $850,000 she’d pocketed, a Murrieta residence worth more than $500,000, as well as several Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
“We will now pursue deportation since we can show that the current visa she has was derived from her husband who committed fraud to gain his visa,” said Daniel Showalter, a Special Agent within Homeland Security Investigations.
But that could hardly be considered punishment since her husband is in China having fled the U.S. before charges were filed and three U.S.-born children (who returned after their father) are back in China too. Li’s mother and teenage daughter, both of whom are Chinese nationals, are currently living in Irvine, California.
As U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Charles Pell told the court before sentencing, “Multiple years is the only fair sentence. I don’t think [the 10 months served]will deter others from committing this crime.”
What does this portend for the cases against the two other Chinese nationals arrested with Li? Will judges be as lenient with the “customers” who paid tens of thousands of dollars to violate immigration law in order to ensure their offspring were American-born?
The Chinese have been exploiting the immigration system in California for years. The same manipulative maternity business has a home in Florida and every year more than 30,000 foreign nationals come to the U.S. to give birth and their children the benefits of citizenship. The industry and the fraud will continue until expectant mothers and those who profit off the births start receiving more than a slap on the bottom.