A Chinese national, who fled to China after pleading guilty for running a birth tourism operation in California five years ago, has been sentenced to over three years in prison by a federal judge on Tuesday.
Birth tourism: Chao “Edwin” Chen was among the operators of an Irvine-based travel company called “You Win USA Vacation Resort,” which has been found to be selling travel packages to pregnant women who plan to deliver babies in the United States.
- The company’s main clientele were wealthy pregnant women, a majority from China, who wanted their babies to become American citizens, the OC Register reports.
- Customers pay as much as $100,000 for travel and care packages that included housing, meals and transportation to medical offices. The women were cared for before the delivery and after.
- More expensive packages include shopping sprees at South Coast Plaza and Beverly Hills and trips to Disneyland.
- To entice clients, Chen’s company promoted the benefits of giving birth in the U.S., such as “13 years of free education from grade school to high school,” and less pollution compared to China.
- The company also promised social security numbers and U.S. passports for the client’s babies, which the mothers would be able to bring home upon their return to their respective countries.
- By law, these U.S.-born children can then apply for visas for family members when they reach adulthood.
Fleeing to China: “You Win USA Vacation Resort” was one of the three birth tourism operations raided by federal agents on March 3, 2015. It was closed down for committing immigration and visa fraud, the Associated Press reports.
- After pleading guilty to visa fraud, marriage fraud and filing a false tax return on June 13, 2016, Chen fled the U.S. and returned to China.
- Last Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana gave Chen a 37-month prison sentence for the visa, marriage and tax fraud guilty plea.
- “There’s an arrest warrant for him and he’ll have to serve his time,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell.
- Dongyuan Li, Chen’s associate, was also sentenced last December 2019. After her 10-month prison term, she was released immediately and left for China before a deportation order was carried out.
- Li’s conviction was believed to be the first sentence handed to a birth tourism operator in the U.S. Her husband, Qiang Yan has also been charged with visa fraud and is believed to be in China as well.
- Meanwhile, at least 10 other defendants charged in related birth tourism convictions have also fled to China.
Feature Image Screenshots via BBC News