SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge sentenced a Chinese national to time served in federal prison Monday for running a multimillion-dollar operation that helped wealthy Chinese women cheat on visa applications in order to give birth to their babies in the United States, netting the babies U.S. citizenship.
Dongyuan Li, 41, of Irvine, California, was one of over a dozen individuals slapped with federal charges this past January of operating illegal birth tourism businesses in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
Li – who operated You Win USA Vacation Services out of China and Irvine – pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and one count of visa fraud.
At sentencing Monday in federal court in Santa Ana, California, prosecutor Charles Pell told U.S. District Judge James V. Selna that Li intentionally lied to federal authorities and directed agents in China to falsify bank records submitted in client’s visa applications.
For her role in the scheme, Li deserved to serve more time than the 10 months she has spent in federal custody, said Pell, assistant U.S Attorney for the Central District of California.
“Multiple years is the only fair sentence,” Pell told Selna. “I don’t think [10 months time served] will deter others from committing this crime.”
But Selna told Pell he would not accept circumstantial evidence outside of the seven documented cases of fraud that prosecutors have proven Li participated in and would therefore not add sentencing enhancements.
Li’s family members thanked and embraced her attorney, Thomas O’Brien of Browne George Ross, outside the courtroom following the hearing.
O’Brien told reporters he was satisfied with the sentence.
“We are quite pleased with the sentence. It was certainly fair,” O’Brien said outside the courtroom. “The court put aside the hyperbole and focused on her background and history.”