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US charges 20 people over Chinese birth tourism schemes

CALIFORNIA (AP): Twenty people have been charged in the largest-ever crackdown on businesses that help Chinese women travel to the United States to give birth to babies who automatically became American citizens.

The US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles says three people were arrested Thursday on charges including conspiracy, visa fraud, and money laundering. More than a dozen others have also been charged in cases stemming from three so-called birth tourism businesses.

Authorities say it’s the first time the US has criminally prosecuted birth tourism operators.

The businesses allegedly billed Chinese women thousands of dollars to travel to California to deliver their babies so the children automatically obtained US citizenship. Authorities say the women hid their pregnancies and lie about details of their trips.

Federal agents raided the businesses in 2015.