The New York Post reports, “A judge on Monday sentenced a Chinese woman to 10 months in prison for her role in a business that helped wealthy pregnant Chinese women lie on visa forms and to immigration authorities and travel to Southern California, to give birth to children who would automatically receive US citizenship.”
US District Judge James Selna issued the sentence to Dongyuan Li, who was expected to be released on Monday due to time served, New York Post writes.
Federal prosecutors opposed the sentence and said they believed Li should be sentenced to years in prison to deter others from helping women lie on visa applications and hide pregnancies in these so-called birth tourism schemes.
“I just think it sends the wrong message,” Charles Pell, the federal prosecutor, told the judge.
Li pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy and visa fraud for running a birth tourism company in Southern California known as “You Win USA.”
Federal authorities said the company helped more than 500 Chinese women travel to the United States to deliver American babies, and that Li used a cluster of apartments in Irvine, California, to receive them.
Authorities said the company coached the women to lie on their visa applications and hide their pregnancies when moving through customs in U.S. airports.
Li amassed more than $3m (£2.4m) in wire transfers. Li admitted that between 2013 and 2015, her company You Win USA Vacation Services would charge Chinese nationals – including government officials – between $40,000 and $80,000 for coaching in how to have a baby in the US.
Li was arrested this year following a year-long investigation into birth tourism schemes that charged Chinese travelers tens of thousands of dollars to deliver their babies in Southern California. Authorities said Li was a birth tourism customer and later got involved in running the business.
In a letter to the court, Li, a mother of four, said she has taken English and music lessons and read books and exercised daily while in custody.
“I am very sorry for the mistakes that I have made,” she wrote in the Dec. 1 letter filed with the court. “I truly sincerely apologize for any harm that I have caused to the American society.”