This 100-strong ‘army’ recruited from California’s Chinese neighborhood, thought they were part of an elite U.S. Special Forces unit employed to help defend their adopted country, the U.S. They were given military uniforms, flags and ID badges and were seen marching in local parades.
They were told that their service to the U.S. would help to gain points that would accumulate to acquire perks from getting off traffic tickets to paving a smoother path to a U.S. citizenship.
The only problem was that the mini-army was a FAKE!
The mastermind, a 51 years old Chinese, Yupeng Deng, was a conman preying on immigrants’ dreams of becoming citizens. He charged more than 100 fellow Chinese nationals between $300 and $450 to join this fake Army unit. As well as telling recruits that belonging to the unit was a path to U.S. citizenship, Deng urged them to pay him cash for higher military rank, according to prosecutors.
Deng called his bogus squad the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit, or MSFR for short, and gave himself the lofty title of "supreme commander."
He even took ‘his soldiers’ to the decommissioned USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is a museum in San Diego. When they would appear in public, the recruits wore green uniforms and held up various flags. They also carried out drills using mock weapons.
They had no clue something was amiss even when they noticed that their uniforms didn't fit them. They didn't shine their boots like other soldiers did. They even had typos and misspellings on their ID cards.
Most of the ‘soldiers’ who turned up for recruitment, at a store front in Temple City, California, that was decorated to resemble an official military recruiting centre, were poorly-paid Chinese waiters from the Los Angeles area. Some of them came from as far away as Georgia.
The FBI began its investigation three years ago after local police noticed an increase in fake military identification passes that were smugly flashed by people pulled over at traffic stops.
It was learned that these ‘soldiers’ were promised that the fake IDs could be used to avoid getting tickets and to receive several benefits and discounts.
Deng was arrested on Tuesday by sheriff's deputies and was charged with theft by false pretenses, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of an official government seal. He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.
You'll have to agree, no matter what, the Chinese are certainly inventive!