Newport Beach’s Hoag Hospital and luxury apartments in Irvine this week were linked to a federal investigation that has targeted suspected “birth tourism” schemes involving pregnant Chinese women on fraudulent visas giving birth in the United States so their children would be American citizens.
According to Homeland Security affidavits unsealed this week, since 2013, “many children” born of Chinese nationals at Hoag were connected to birthing operators, who charged the women around $50,000 each for the service.
One of the three suspected operations, You Win USA, also utilized Fountain Valley Regional and Medical Center, where at least 400 children are believed to have been born in connection with the schemes, according to the affidavits.
The documents also state that federal agents suspect the otherwise financially capable women either failed to pay the hospitals any of the cost of healthcare — about $25,000 — or paid about $4,000, claiming they were low-income patients without insurance.
On Tuesday, federal investigators entered a dozen units at the Carlyle at Colton Plaza apartment complex in Irvine, near John Wayne Airport, as well as homes in Irvine’s Portola Springs and Woodbridge neighborhoods.
The week’s raids, which also took place in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, marked the largest investigation of its kind in the effort to crack down on the practice of foreign nationals coming to the U.S. only to have babies, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Times also reported that foreign nationals giving birth in the U.S. is not necessarily illegal, and recent legislative efforts to address the practice have been unsuccessful.
According to the affidavits, however, federal investigators suspect that the birth tourism operators committed visa, marriage and tax fraud, as well as defrauding the hospitals.
The investigation is continuing and no arrests have been made, a U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Friday.
In a statement, St. Joseph Hoag Health’s general counsel, Shannon Dwyer, noted that Hoag Hospital is not a subject of the investigation and is cooperating with authorities. St. Joseph Hoag Health represents the affiliation between Hoag Hospital & St. Joseph Health.
Furthermore, she added, as a healthcare provider, the facility “is responsible for providing medical care to all who walk through our doors, regardless of their background or ability to pay. Our only priority is providing the very best care for those in need.”
Fountain Valley Regional spokeswoman Dina Edwards said the hospital has “cooperated fully with all requests for information from law enforcement and will continue to do so throughout the investigation.”