Chinese birth tourism attorney Ken Zhiyi Liang was sentenced in federal court in Santa Ana this week to 21 months in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford listened to about 3 1/2 hours of wiretap recordings of Liang before finding the 39-year-old founder of the Kenzi Law Offices in Irvine guilty in September of three counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Liang had been indicted for taking a $6,000 bribe to help a witness in a federal investigation leave the country illegally. Homeland Security had been probing a scheme where Chinese nationals came to the U.S.—including lodging in Irvine and hospitals throughout Orange County—to give birth so the newborns would automatically become American citizens.
Federal prosecutors also accused Liang of helping two other witnesses "abscond from court supervision," but the lawyer was not charged with those alleged offenses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Yang, who further claimed Liang made "misrepresentations" on an EB-5 immigrant visa application and to the State Bar regarding his receipt of $500,000 in funds from a client, had sought a three-year term in prison for the immigration lawyer's "remarkably brazen" crimes.
Guilford fined Liang $1,000 and gave him credit for about seven months behind bars. Liang's attorney Jim Riddet figures his client will be freed in about a year.
Though Liang is likely to be disbarred, he has already decided he will never practice law again, Riddet told Guilford, adding his client instead plans to do secretarial work for a Realtor for about $13 per hour.
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"I sincerely apologize for my terrible judgment," Liang told the judge, adding he plans to "refocus" on being a "caring father to my children" as well as a better husband.
Guilford praised Liang for emigrating to the U.S. from China, getting "well educated" and then earning a law degree, adding "I'm pleased and impressed you came here and worked so hard.
However, the judge noted that "it reflected poorly" on Liang that he took advantage of clients "in desperate need of your help."
On the bright side, that should make him a great fit in the real estate world.