What would you do to stay in the country you love? Would you trust a fellow foreigner—someone from your homeland—with your future, paying him up to $450 to join his US Army unit and get a fast-track to citizenship? These desperate, deceived immigrants did just that.
51-year-old Yupeng Deng of Los Angeles scammed over 100 other Chinese citizens whose immigration statuses were questionable, by charging them anywhere between $300 and $450 (plus $120 annually) to join what he assured them was a gen-u-ine US Army unit that would give them the green card they so desired. If his soldiers were willing to pay more money, he would elevate their military positions—though none came close to Supreme Commander, which is what he’d promoted himself to.
He provided them with army uniforms, fake military ID cards and documents, and even tricked them into parading and visiting the USS Midway aircraft carrier museum in San Diego. Dressed in their uniforms, naturally.
It appears one of the promises he enticed them with ultimately sent him to the slammer, after police in the LA area started noticing people were presenting fake military ID cards when caught speeding or running red lights. As the story goes, Deng had told them the ID cards could circumnavigate police fines—but as luck would have it, they only resulted in landing him with a $500,000 bond (which he couldn’t afford) and a charge of 13 counts of theft by false pretenses. A jail sentence of at least 11 years is expected.
Despite having run the operation since 2008, Deng got away with swindling at least 100 people. Deng’s soldiers didn’t fool city councilman Joaquin Lim though, who commented that “their uniforms didn’t fit them. They didn’t shine their boots, they even had typos and misspellings on their ID cards. They were a disgrace to the Army.”