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Chinese migrant held in California over 'fake army unit'

A Chinese man has been arrested in California and charged with theft and counterfeiting for allegedly creating a fake US Army unit and selling immigrants on the idea that joining the squad was a path to citizenship.

Yupeng Deng, 51, allegedly gave his "recruits" military uniforms, had them parade in a Los Angeles suburb and took them to the decommissioned USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is a museum in San Diego.

Yupeng charged more than 100 fellow Chinese nationals between $300 and $450 (£185 and £275) to join the bogus unit, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. He called his bogus squad the US Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit, or MSFR for short, and gave himself the title of "supreme commander," prosecutors said.

As well as telling recruits that belonging to the unit was a path to US citizenship, Yupeng urged them to pay him cash for higher military rank, prosecutors say, and allegedly provided fake documents and phoney military identification cards.

Yupeng, a resident of the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte, was arrested on Tuesday. He was charged with theft by false pretences, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of an official government seal.

He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted, and was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday.