'Supreme Commander' of phony army unit that recruited Chinese nationals charged
An El Monte man has been arrested and charged for allegedly recruiting 100 Chinese nationals to join a phony Army special forces unit that he led as "Supreme Commander," authorities said Tuesday.
Agents with the FBI and U.S. Department of Defense arrested 51-year-old Yupeng Deng, a.k.a David Deng, a Chinese national. Deng, who was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at L.A. County Superior Court in Pomona.
Deng is charged in state court with 13 counts of theft by false pretenses, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of an official government seal, said Jane Robison of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum of more than eight years in state prison.
Separately, Deng was charged Wednesday with one count of possession of child pornography, stemming from a search warrant executed at his home. In that case, he faces up to three years in state prison if convicted on a single-count possession of child pornography.
Prosecutors allege that in 2008, Deng created an unauthorized military unit he called the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit and recruited other Chinese nationals, primarily in the San Gabriel Valley, to join up.
According to prosecutors, Deng told them joining the unit "was a path to U.S. citizenship."
As the self-titled "Supreme Commander," Deng allegedly charged each recruit initiation fees as high as $450 and a $125 annual renewal fee. Recruits allegedly could increase their rank by making cash donations to the defendant, prosecutors said.
In addition, prosecutors allege Deng provided his recruits with fake U.S. Army uniforms as well as phony documents and military ID cards.
The recruits were also instructed to report to the defendant's office in Temple City, made up to look like an official U.S. military recruiting center, to undergo military training and indoctrination.
The recruits even marched in a parade in Monterey Park and took a tour of the U.S. Midway museum in San Diego, all while dressed in uniform, Robison said.
-- Andrew Blankstein