EB-5 Investment Fraud SEC Whistleblower Lawyers
Fraudsters Use EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program To Scam Investors
Recently, there has been rise in investment fraud through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The EB-5 program, administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), provides a path to legal residency for foreigners who invest directly in a U.S. business or private regional centers that promote economic development in specific areas and industries. The purpose of the EB-5 program is to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Lately, however, marketers have used this investment-for-visa program to defraud investors.
In a typical scheme, a company and its fundraisers will solicit EB-5 investors with the promise of high rates of return and/or U.S. residency. In some instances, the companies will even guarantee that the investments are risk-free. In realty, many of these companies act as Ponzi schemes or other illegal operations. The common SEC violations arising out of EB-5 schemes include:
- Making any untrue statement of a material fact, omitting material facts, or engaging in any act, practice, or course of business which operates as a fraud, violating Section 10(b)-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934;
- Fraud and misrepresentation, violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933; and
- Unregistered broker-dealers engaging in the sale of securities, violating Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
SEC Enforcement Actions
In a recent enforcement action, on July 26, 2016, the SEC obtained a $63.8 million judgment against an oil company for a scheme that targeted EB-5 investors. The SEC alleged in their complaint that Luca International Group, LLC and its entities (collectively, the “Luca Entities”), targeting investors in Asia to invest in unregistered offerings of securities. Luca Entities represented to investors that their money would be invested in oil and gas drilling operations, and that they could expect risk-free annual rates of return of 20-30 percent. Luca Entities deceived investors by misrepresenting that their operations as successful, all while knowing that the company was losing millions of dollars. Luca Entities maintained this deception by using money from new investors to make sham profit payments to earlier investors until its bankruptcy in August 2015.
In another enforcement action, on June 23, 2015, the SEC charged two firms (Ireeco LLC and Ireeco Limited) that illegally brokered more than $79 million of investments by EB-5 investors seeking U.S. residency.Ireeco LCC used its website to solicit EB-5 investors and provide them with the “information and education” they would need in choosing the right regional center to invest with. After securing foreign investors from the website, Ireeco LCC would then direct them to the same handful of regional centers that paid the company a commission averaging around $35,000 per investor. While raising money for EB-5 projects in the U.S., these two firms were not registered to legally operate as securities brokers.The SEC sought to disgorge all of the ill-gotten gains and subject the companies to civil penalties pursuant to Sections 21B and 21C of the Exchange Act.
SEC Whistleblower Rewards and Bounties
Under the SEC Whistleblower Program, whistleblowers may be eligible for monetary awards when they voluntarily provide the SEC with original information about violations that leads the SEC to bring a successful enforcement action resulting in monetary sanctions exceeding $1,000,000. Whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 10 percent and 30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected.
SEC Whistleblower Protection
The SEC Whistleblower Program also protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers and does not disclose information that might directly or indirectly reveal a whistleblower’s identity. Furthermore, the Dodd-Frank Act protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers for reporting violations of securities laws.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
- Luca International Group, LLC
- Ireeco Limited
- New York
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