Gady Epstein: Your Alpaca For A Visa?
If the e-mail had come from some other distant country, Wayne England might have dismissed it as a scam. But this one, an inquiry last November about buying his alpacas, was from China, so the 74-year-old Tennessee farmer went for it. “Since all the money’s in China, I thought it wouldn’t hurt,” says England. Thus began an elaborate visa ploy that successfully gained two Chinese men entry into the U.S. last month.
The pair had posed as livestock farmers interested in buying at least 40 to 50 alpacas so they could get a credible letter of invitation to visit his farm and be approved for visas. Alpacas, popular of late in China for an unrelated reason, are valuable for their fleece and can cost anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per animal.