POMONA (CBS/AP) — A Chinese national accused of pretending to be a U.S. Army recruiter to bilk immigrants out of thousands of dollars has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Pomona Superior Court Judge Jack Hunt sentenced Yupeng Deng, of El Monte, to three years in state prison after his plea to one count each of theft by false pretenses, manufacturing deceptive documents, counterfeit of an official government seal and possession of child pornography.
Ten other counts against Deng were dismissed as a result of his plea, according to Deputy District Attorney Lalit Kundani.
A restitution hearing date is scheduled to be set later for Deng, who was arrested April 12.
Prosecutors say the 51-year-old, who also goes by David Deng, created a scheme where he recruited about 200 other Chinese immigrants from Southern California, the San Francisco Bay area and Atlanta to join his bogus Army reserve unit, telling them it could improve their chances of obtaining U.S. citizenship.
He charged initiation fees ranging from $300 to $450 per year to each recruit, with renewal fees set at $120 annually, and recruits received fraudulent military identification cards and phony Army uniforms, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The child pornography charge, filed in a separate case, involved a search warrant that was served at his home.
Authorities said that Deng decorated his Temple City office so it looked like a U.S. military recruiting center, and that he also had offices in Oakland and Atlanta.
“Yupeng Deng made a history of lying about himself,” Kundani said. “He called himself the `supreme commander’ when, in reality, he was the `supreme con artist.’ He wanted to wear the king’s robe, ride on the king’s horse and wear the king’s crown, but he didn’t have the courage to walk a day in the king’s shoes.”
Chris Hendrickson, a special agent in charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s Western field office, said “Deng’s greed and corrupt practices victimized innocent immigrants and compromised our national security.”
Investigators from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and FBI agents jointly investigated the case, with assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, United States Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Army.