Chinese National Accused of U.S. Army Recruiting Scam

POMONA, California -- A Chinese national was arrested and charged Tuesday in a U.S. Army recruiting scam in which he convinced 100 others to enlist with the promise that it was a path to U.S. citizenship, authorities said.

Yupeng Deng, also known as David Deng, gave himself the title of "Supreme Commander" of an unauthorized military unit he called the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit, prosecutors said. The 51-year-old El Monte man allegedly recruited other Chinese nationals, primarily in the San Gabriel Valley, to join.

He is accused of providing recruits with phony U.S. Army uniforms, fake documents and military ID cards and charging them initiation fees ranging from $300 to $450, with renewal fees set at $120 a year.

The recruits were instructed to report to Deng's office in Temple City, which was decorated to look like an official military recruiting center, to undergo military training and indoctrination, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said. They marched in a parade in Monterey Park and took a tour of the U.S. Midway Museum in San Diego, all in uniform.

Deng was charged with 13 counts of theft by false pretenses, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of an official government seal, prosecutors said. He faces more than eight years in state prison if convicted.

It was not known whether Deng had retained an attorney. An e-mail sent after-hours Tuesday to the district attorney's office was not immediately returned.

Deng was arrested by agents with the FBI and U.S. Department of Defense on a felony complaint filed Monday, Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos said. He was being held on $500,000 bail and scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.

Federal investigators began looking into Deng more than two years ago when they received reports from police who recovered counterfeit military IDs from some of Deng's recruits during traffic stops, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

When Deng sent his recruits renewal forms for their bogus military IDs, some showed up at Army facilities to pay them, she said.

Deng also has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography stemming from a search warrant executed at his home. Authorities investigating the Army fraud case say they found child pornography on his home computer.

He was scheduled to be arraigned in that case on April 18, and faces up to three years in state prison if convicted.