UPDATE NO. 2, MARCH 4, 9:59 A.M.: Apartments in Mission Viejo were also searched as part of the government's investigation into "birth tourism," where pregnant Chinese women with fraudulent visas come to the U.S. to deliver babies so they will be born U.S. citizens, according to the federal affidavit.
The investigation began last June when Irvine Police contacted a federal investigator after receiving an anonymous letter about a Chinese national accused of being one of the scheme's ringleaders, according to the government's search warrant. Tuesday's raid at The Carlyle at Colton Plaza luxury apartments in Irvine focused on three people suspected of visa, marriage and tax fraud, according to federal court documents. The government alleges Chinese women paid fees for the Irvine stays that ranged between $40,000 and $80,000 depending on the services rendered, which could have included three-month stays during their pregnancies, postnatal care, transportation for shopping, dining and doctors visits and help obtaining birth certificates, passports and Social Security cards for the babies born here, according to the search warrant. "Our management company, Legacy Partner, is fully cooperating with the federal authorities regarding the ongoing investigation," Carlyle spokesman Eric Rose told City News Service.
UPDATE NO. 1, MARCH 3, 11:39 A.M.: "You Win USA Vacation Resort" was the name of the alleged operation in a luxury apartment complex in Irvine where pregnant Chinese women with fraudulent visas came to deliver children so they would be born U.S. citizens, according to federal authorities. This morning's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids of The Carlyle at Colton Plaza at 18880 Douglas, Irvine, and about a couple dozen other locations in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties were designed to gather "further evidence related to a variety of possible criminal violations, including visa and tax fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy," according to a statement from ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. The multi-agency operation included ICE Homeland Security Investigations; the Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service; the Los Angeles Airport Police Department; the Irvine Police Department; and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. According to City News Service, the related affidavit unsealed today alleges:
* Women from China paid anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000, depending on the services offered, to participate in the so-called "birth tourism." Fees cover lodging, transportation, and food but not medical care, which evidence shows the women paid for separately.
* Clients were promised Social Security numbers and U.S. passports for their infants, which the mothers would take with them when they left this country.
* The alleged schemes used websites, newspaper ads and social media to promote their services.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 3, 9:24 A.M.: Federal agents are right now raiding a luxury apartment complex in Irvine that is among 20 in the country targeted for being "birth tourism" locations where pregnant Chinese women with fraudulent visas come to deliver children so they will be born U.S. citizens.
I could not tell from the video shot by an LA television news copter overhead where the apartments were exactly, but there were definitely Federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vehicles are positioned outside The Carlyle at Colton Plaza, which is at 18880 Douglas, Irvine, and near John Wayne Airport.
The Los Angeles Times reports that affidavits unsealed today allege "operators charged Chinese women tens of thousands of dollars for services that guided expectant mothers through obtaining tourist visas, coaching them on successfully making their way into the country and housing them for months as they awaited giving birth."
That led to today's serving of search warrants at the homes of suspected operators and apartment complexes in Irvine, Rancho Cucamonga, Rowland Heights and Walnut where pregnant women were allegedly being housed.