LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Federal agents raided about 20 Southern California locations on Tuesday suspected of involvement in "maternity tourism" schemes offering travel and lodging services to pregnant foreign women seeking to give birth in the United States, U.S. immigration officials said.
Authorities say the so-called maternity hotels targeted in the sweep catered largely to women from China who paid $15,000 to $50,000, depending on services provided, in hopes of obtaining U.S. citizenship for their children.
Based on the results of previous investigations, the women apparently pay cash for pre-natal medical treatment and actual delivery of their babies, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE.
The locations searched included apartment complexes and other sites in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties that were suspected of housing foreign clients, ICE said.
No criminal arrests were anticipated from Tuesday's raids, but investigators were seeking evidence related to such possible criminal offenses as visa and tax fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, according to the agency.
Any women encountered at the locations raided on Wednesday were to be interviewed, and those identified as potential material witnesses will be instructed where and when to report for further questioning, ICE said.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert)