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7 Chinese nationals bilked of $1.5 million in visa scheme, D.A.’s office says

7 Chinese nationals bilked of $1.5 million in visa scheme, D.A.’s office says
L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey's office announced Monday that seven Chinese nationals were defrauded of $1.5 million by two San Gabriel Valley residents who said they could obtain visas in exchange for investments in restaurants. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Seven Chinese nationals were defrauded of $1.5 million by two San Gabriel Valley residents who said they could obtain visas in exchange for investments in restaurants owned by one of the locals, prosecutors said Monday.

Niandei Bu, who goes by Allen Bu, of West Covina and Hourong Zhang, who goes by Joanna Zhang, of Rowland Heights face charges of grand theft, fraud and embezzlement, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

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Prosecutors said the pair, who were arrested last week, promised seven Chinese nationals visas if they invested in one of five restaurants owned by Bu.

The two, who are not attorneys or registered immigration consultants, never provided legal or immigration services to the victims, prosecutors said.

Bu also faces four counts of wage theft for not paying $11,000 to employees whom he had hired to help contact potential investors. The employees weren’t aware of the illegal operation, according to the district attorney’s office.

Bu faces 14 years and eight months in prison if convicted as charged, while Zhang faces up to 12 years.

The case remains under investigation by the district attorney’s office and the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Potential victims are encouraged to call the Notario Fraud Unit, which prosecutes immigration fraud, at (213) 257-2465.

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