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'Maternity tourism' witness held after trying to board flight to China

Material witness in federal 'maternity tourism' case in custody after trying to leave for Beijing

A material witness in an ongoing federal probe of alleged "maternity tourism" operations in Southern California was arrested after she tried to leave the country, authorities said Thursday.

Ying Wu was arrested by special agents with the Department of Homeland Security on April 15 at Los Angeles International Airport after she, her infant and her husband were preparing to board a flight bound for Beijing, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Wu, 31, appeared Friday before a federal judge, who released her on a $10,000 unsecured bond. Under the terms of her release, Wu must wear a GPS monitor and is confined to house arrest at an undisclosed location.

She has not been formally charged, Mrozek said. Her husband opted to remain in the U.S. with the child. 

Last month, scores of federal agents raided properties connected to three alleged maternity tourism schemes, which typically bring Chinese women into the United States on tourist visas so their children will be born U.S. citizens.

Investigators searched apartment complexes in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, hauling out boxes of documents, trash and diaper containers. Agents were looking specifically for indications of visa fraud and other evidence that could show women were coached to falsify documents and claim that they were visiting the U.S. as tourists. 

No one has been charged in connection with the investigation, which is ongoing. 

Wu is believed to have used the services of an Irvine-based company under investigation, officials said. She is among about two dozen witnesses designated for the government's case.

Her attorney could not be reached for comment.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno

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