Yupeng Deng, 51, is accused of posing as a U.S. Army recruiter to scam money from recently immigrated Chinese nationals in Southern California, the Bay Area and in Atlanta. He claimed to run a special Army unit.
Deng claimed by joining his group, the immigrants would improve their chances at becoming American citizens.
The recruits were charged $300 to $450 to enlist and up to $120 a year to renew memberships in what Deng called the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit.
Deng pleaded guilty to counts of theft, manufacturing deceptive government documents, counterfeiting a government seal, and to an unrelated felony possession of child pornography. Investigators found the pornography on Deng's computer while searching for evidence in the Army scam.
Deng is required to pay $200,000 in restitution, in addition to serving three years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.