By Nyah Toomes
The first week of April harbored an unusual fluctuation of crime in San Gabriel, California.
On April 5, federal agents raided several homes and an office tied to an alleged multimillion dollar visa and finance fraud that allowed wealthy Chinese investors, some being on China’s most wanted list, to gain United States residency.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Victoria Chan, her father Tat Chan, and family friend Fang Zeng invested money in falsified development projects in exchange for U.S visas.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided the California Investment Immigration Fund, a small office inside the Hilton hotel, on the busy street of Valley Boulevard.
In recent years, the demand for EB-5 visas has increased due to the influx of wealthy Chinese citizens. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found serious oversight problems with the EB-5 program. Due to issues with management, the Chans and Zeng took it upon themselves to exploit part of the visa program.
Fifty million dollars were deposited into 72 bank accounts linked to the suspects’ investment fund from 2009 to 2016. The money was traced back to the investors’ bank accounts in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Thirty investors have continued pursuing permanent legal residents. In total, the investors have received about $10 million back.
Two days later, on April 7, 27-year-old James Gordley, 18-year-old Tyrone Stevenson, and a 17-year-old boy, whose name was withheld, were arrested on human-trafficking offenses. Three teenage girls between 14 and 17 were rescued from New Century Inn on East Las Tunas Drive in San Gabriel.
The girls were victims were of a child prostitution ring operating from the motel.
“I felt scared [when I heard about the incident] because I didn’t know that was going on.” said junior Cassandra Valdez. “I live so close to the inn and it could have happened to me because I always walk past there, sometimes even at night.”
Due to periodic sweeps of convicted felons on probation, a multi-agency ask force contacted one of the suspects at New Century Inn and later found out that he was involved in the human trafficking ring, which led to the arrests. The suspects were held on bail for $150,000.
“This is the first [human trafficking case] in the city of San Gabriel,” reporter Jane Yamamoto of NBC 4 News said. “The teens are now in protective custody and want to be reunited with their families.”
Officials declined to release the suspects’ cities of residencies.