Two alleged fraudsters pleaded not guilty Monday to taking $1.5 million from Chinese nationals in an immigration scheme.
Nianfei Bu, aka Allen Bu, 34, of West Covina, is facing 12 counts of grand theft — eight for allegedly taking more than $950 by fraud and four for wage theft valued at more than $950. Hourong Zhang, aka Joanna Zhang, 37, of Rowland Heights, is charged with eight counts of grand theft of more than $950 by fraud.
The charges include a sentence-enhancing allegation of fraud and embezzlement resulting in the loss of more than $500,000.
The pair were arrested last Thursday for crimes prosecutors say they committed in 2015-16. The defendants allegedly promised they could secure visas for seven Chinese nationals if they invested in one of five restaurants owned by Bu.
The defendants, who had been in a relationship, were not attorneys or registered immigration consultants and provided none of the promised legal or immigration services, according to prosecutors.
Bu is also accused of failing to pay $11,000 in wages owed to employees hired to help contact potential investors. Authorities said the employees weren’t aware of the alleged illegal nature of the operation.
If convicted as charged, Bu faces a possible maximum sentence of 14 years and eight months and Zhang faces up to 12 years in jail or prison.
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim was urged to call the District Attorney’s Notario Fraud Unit at 213-257-2465.
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