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Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California


United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Release No. 06-132

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

ORANGE COUNTY MAN SENTENCED TO MORE THAN FIVE YEARS FOR SMUGGLING CHINESE ALIENS INTO UNITED STATES


Los Angeles, CA - A Fountain Valley man was sentenced to 63 months in prison today for his role in an elaborate series of schemes to smuggle illegal aliens from China into the United States, charging the aliens as much as $60,000 each.

Claud Wei, 44, was sentenced this morning by United States District Court Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana. In addition to the prison sentence, Wei was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine. Wei previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport, harbor and conceal illegal aliens. Today's sentence includes an enhancement based on evidence that Wei frequently locked the smuggled aliens inside an office he maintained at the Los Caballeros Racquet and Sports Club in Fountain Valley.

Wei, his sister Grace Wei Joseph, and Jason Kaiser, pleaded guilty in 2004 to charges stemming from their involvement in the human smuggling scheme uncovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to court documents, the defendants and their associates relied on a variety of methods including counterfeit documents, bribes, visa fraud and identity theft to bring illegal aliens from China into the United States, beginning as far back as 1998.

Initially, Wei and his associates recruited United States citizens to go on "all expense paid vacations" to Japan. Once the citizen travelers obtained their boarding passes for their return flight to the United States, they would surrender them to a member of the organization who would transfer the boarding passes to their illegal alien clients. After the illegal aliens boarded the plane, they would destroy their documents in flight and claim asylum when they arrived at Los Angeles International Airport. Wei and his associates would then bond their clients out of immigration custody and arrange for their transportation to destinations throughout the eastern United States, including New York, Baltimore, and Chicago.

With the heightened airport security that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks, Wei and his associates began using more traditional smuggling routes along the southwest border. According to an affidavit filed in this case, Wei bribed foreign officials to facilitate his clients' travel through Mexico to the United States border, where smugglers helped them cross into the United States.

On March 19, 2004, Wei was arrested after ICE agents observed him transporting a group of Chinese aliens to LAX to catch a flight to New York. A subsequent search of Wei's Fountain Valley residence turned up boxes containing used boarding passes, client lists, visa applications and more than 25 counterfeit foreign and United States passports.

Previously, Kaiser, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport, harbor and conceal illegal aliens, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and a $20,000 fine. Wei Joseph, who pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, received a five-month prison sentence followed by five months of home detention.

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Release No. 06-132

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