LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Chinese man was arrested for creating a fake U.S. Army unit and convincing immigrants that joining the squad was a path to citizenship, authorities said.
Yupeng Deng, 51, allegedly gave his recruits military uniforms, had them parade in a Los Angeles suburb and took them to the decommissioned USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is a museum in San Diego.
Deng charged more than 100 fellow Chinese nationals a fee of between $300 and $450 to join the fake Army unit, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
He called his bogus squad the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit, or MSFR for short, and he gave himself the lofty title of supreme commander, prosecutors said.
Aside from telling recruits that belonging to the unit was a path to U.S. citizenship, Deng also urged them to pay him cash for higher military rank, according to prosecutors.
He also allegedly provided them with fake documents and phony military identification cards.
Deng, a resident of the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte, was arrested on Tuesday by sheriff’s deputies.
He was charged with theft by false pretenses, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of an official government seal.
Deng faces up to eight years in prison if convicted. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, and is being held on $500,000 bail.
Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on how Deng was caught.
“All the details and evidence will come out in a preliminary hearing,” she said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan