Man accused of recruiting for phony army
LOS ANGELES – They didn’t have Army haircuts. Their boots didn’t shine. Their uniforms didn’t look right. U.S. Army veteran Joaquin Lim sensed something was amiss with the troop that popped up at civic events in Southern California’s Chinese-American communities. At a flag-raising ceremony honoring a Chinese holiday, he stopped one of the recruits and asked to see his military ID.
“There were actually typos on the ID card,” Lim said. “Right away, I knew something was wrong.”
Those suspicions came into the spotlight Tuesday when authorities arrested the so-called “supreme commander” of the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit and charged him with duping Chinese immigrants into thinking they had enlisted in the American armed forces.
Prosecutors say Yupeng Deng, 51, recruited 100 other Chinese immigrants from as far away as Northern California and even Georgia to enlist in his Southern California group to help improve their chances of obtaining green cards and U.S. citizenship.
“They joined parades, just like the Salvation Army,” said Deng’s attorney, Daniel Deng, no relation. “He was just a political asylee who was grateful and wanted to do something for the community.”
But authorities say Yupeng Deng wasn’t just a well-meaning resident trying to show his patriotism.
He staged an office with a rug featuring the Army seal. Recruits paid $300 to $400 to join and were issued ID cards they were told could help them beat traffic tickets, said Michael Yglecias, a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County.
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