This takes elaborate ruses to new level. Californian Yupeng Deng used uniforms, IDs, basic training exercises, and military parades in a scam tricking Chinese immigrants into believing they had joined a “special forces reserve” of the U.S. military. The New York Times reports:
To the Chinese immigrants he recruited, Yupeng Deng was known as Supreme Commander. He offered them United States Army uniforms, conducted training exercises on Sundays, led marches in municipal parades and promised a path toward American citizenship.
The uniforms were real, but Mr. Deng’s U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit was a sham, the authorities said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Deng, 51, was arraigned in Los Angeles County Court on 13 felony charges related to the fake military operation, which concentrated on Chinese immigrants, eager to become American citizens, in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles.
More than 100 immigrants paid upwards of $300 to join the bogus unit, the authorities said, and $120 to renew their memberships each year. In addition, recruits could increase their rank with additional cash donations to Mr. Deng, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case.
To entice recruits, Mr. Deng also set up an office decorated to look like a real military recruiting office. Once they had paid, he provided gear bought from army surplus stores and identification cards made to look like military ID’s, which Mr. Deng said they could use to get out of traffic tickets, said Laura Eimiller, a public affairs specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Los Angeles.
Despite its lack of affiliation with the Army, the unit became a well-known presence in the San Gabriel Valley. The group has marched in city parades in Monterey Park for the last two years, and also took a tour of the U.S.S. Midway Museum in San Diego, dressed in military uniforms.