An El Monte man was sentenced to three years in state prison Wednesday in connection with a scheme to recruit 200 Chinese nationals and charge them for joining a phony Army Special Forces unit that he led as “supreme commander,” Los Angeles County prosecutors said.
Under the deal with prosecutors, Chinese national Yupeng “David” Deng pleaded guilty to three felony charges including false pretenses, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of a government seal, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. As part of his sentence, he will be required to pay restitution to the victims.
Authorities alleged that in 2008, Deng concocted a faux military unit he called the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit and persuaded other Chinese nationals, primarily in the San Gabriel Valley, to join it.
Deng told them joining the unit “was a path to U.S. citizenship” but authorities said Deng’s “U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve” was actually an immigration scam that preyed on Chinese immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley desperate to become citizens.
As the self-titled “supreme commander,” Deng allegedly charged each recruit initiation fees as high as $450 and a $125 annual renewal fee. Recruits allegedly could promote themselves in rank by making cash donations to the defendant, prosecutors said.