A Department of Homeland Security investigation based in California has led to the indictment of 19 people accused of taking part in a "birth tourism" scam aimed at Chinese residents. The scheme was designed to aid Chinese parents obtain birthright citizenship in the United States for their children.
The three ringleaders of the scheme and 16 other individuals were charged with federal crimes related to their birth tourism outfits that charged tens of thousands of dollars for the chance at obtaining American citizenship for Chinese children. According to the indictment, the scheme operated a maternity house that allowed pregnant Chinese women to give birth in the United States. The women involved were alleged to have lied on their visa applications about their reason for coming to the United States, and many stayed after their visa expired.
The crimes charged in the indictment varied. Many of the individuals were charged with immigration violations as well as money laundering. The indictments also charged some defendants with defrauding the owners of the property where the birth houses operated. Most of the individuals indicted are Chinese nationals.
The investigation spanned multiple agencies other than the Department of Homeland Security. The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement was also involved as was the Internal Revenue Service. Local and state law enforcement took part as well.
The potential consequences facing anyone charged with federal crimes are serious. A conviction could lead to hefty fines, incarceration in federal prison, or both. The long-term consequences can follow that person for the rest of their life. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help by negotiating with prosecutors to lessen the charges or dismiss them entirely. If negotiation is not an option, an attorney may defend their client at trial before a jury of their peers.