There are many reasons Irvine is attractive. Last month, Truth In Accounting revealed Irvine is No. 1 among the country’s 75 largest cities in fiscal strength (for the third straight year). In September, Irvine was deemed the “Best City to Live In” by Orange County Register readers and designated the Safest City In America with a population of 250,000 or more for the 13th consecutive year.
Many families will tell you they are in Irvine because a public education there is equal to a private education elsewhere. To maintain that reputation, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation (IPSF) contributes money from fundraisers, corporate donors and the community to the state-supported Irvine Unified School District. City taxpayers match what the IPSF raises, up to $1.3 million annually.
Orange County’s largest public university, UC Irvine, just announced the 70,540 applications from aspiring in-state freshman for fall registrations were more than what was received by the other eight University of California campuses—a first for UCI, which, speaking of firsts, was also the top choice among low-income families, underrepresented groups and first-generation families.
It’s small wonder Irvine is on the map for so many Chinese, which in this case is not a reference to known and silent investors, but rather pregnant ladies. Federal authorities on Jan. 31 arrested three alleged birth-tourism operators who catered to Chinese people. Also that day, indictments unsealed in federal court linked 19 people to schemes in Irvine, Rancho Cucamonga and Los Angeles County that made millions of dollars by helping foreign clients give birth in the U.S. so their newborns are automatically American citizens.
Dongyuan Li, 41, of Irvine, was charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, international money laundering and identity theft. She allegedly used 20 Irvine apartments for her You Win USA business, which boasted of having served more than 500 Chinese birth-tourism customers.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) says its You Win USA probe resulted in the seizure and/or forfeiture of: three properties with millions of dollars in equity, including Li’s $2.1 million Irvine home; six vehicles (including four Mercedes-Benzes); more than $1 million from bank accounts; and many gold bars and coins.
When Li’s 42-year-old husband, Qiang Yan, was interviewed by HSI agents, he allegedly bragged of having $10 million in his bank account in China, referring to his birth-tourism-business investment as “chump change.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.