IRVINE (CBSLA.com) — Investigators served search warrants at around two dozen locations across the Southland Tuesday targeting maternity tourism schemes, authorities said.
KNX 1070's Ed Mertz reports U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents searched apartment complexes in
in Irvine, Rowland Heights and Walnut which, according to authorities, housed foreign nationals interested in coming to the United States.
This morning's operation was designed to gather "further evidence related to a variety of possible criminal violations, including visa and tax fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy," ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a
Authorities searched 27 locations in all as part of a crackdown on a scheme to illegally bring wealthy Chinese women into the U.S. "to give birth so their offspring will be American citizens," Kice said.
As part of the maternity "hotel package" - which can range in price anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the services offered - clients were promised Social Security numbers and U.S. passports for their infants, which the
mothers would take with them when they returned back to their homeland.
"These women have not been representing the truth, they've been committing visa fraud, and they've been doing so at the coaching of these organizations who are arranging all of their travel," said Claude Arnold, ICE Special Agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations.
Some of the businesses targeted in the action - including a Rancho Cucamonga-based outfit that went by the name "USA Happy Baby, Inc." - used websites, newspaper ads and social media to promote their services, according to Arnold.
Investigators hope to use those questioned during today's action as material witnesses in any future prosecution.
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