State reaches settlement in connection to EB-5 scandal
The state of South Dakota announced Tuesday that two long-pending civil lawsuits involving Joop Bollen and the EB-5 program have been settled.
SDRC, Inc., a company Bollen founded, will immediately pay $546,250 into a state-controlled indemnification account and $81,250 in 2019 in relation to allegations Bollen diverted more than $1.2 million in funds tied to the EB-5 visa program.
The settlement comes one month after Bollen was sentenced to two years of probation and a $2,000 fine for pleading guilty to one of five felony counts in relation to financial misconduct.
With the state having already recovered $894,633.32 in indemnification funds from SDRC, Inc., Gov. Dennis Daugaard's Chief of Staff Tony Venhuizen was encouraged by the settlement.
"Today's settlement and the recovery of $1.5 million from SDRC, Inc. not only compensates the state for past EB-5 related expenses, but also ensures the state has the funds it would otherwise have had under the contract with SDRC, Inc. to guard against any future claims," Venhuizen said.
The lawsuits were tied to the federal visa program called EB-5 that allows people to seek U.S. residency in exchange for a $500,000 investment in approved projects. EB-5 was also a central factor in an investigation of former Gov. Mike Rounds' Cabinet Richard Benda, who had signed a contract with Bollen and was alleged to have double billed trips he took while serving as a state employee.
With Bollen receiving probation and a small fine, coupled with the settlement announcement, the South Dakota Democratic Party wasn't enthusiastic about Tuesday's announcement.
"Like the lenient plea deal reached between Attorney General Marty Jackley and Joop Bollen, today's settlement means the public will now get less information about the EB-5 scandal because no trial will take place to expose the facts of the corruption," the S.D. Democratic Party said in a statement. "Once again, the Republican establishment in Pierre is sweeping corruption under the rug."
According to the release issued Tuesday, the state will remain a party to a lawsuit in Hughes County against South Dakota and SDRC, Inc. by investors in the Northern Beef Packers project, which received funding from EB-5 investors.
- South Dakota
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