Calif. Atty, Her Father Accused Of Exploiting EB-5 Program
A California attorney and her father have been accused of exploiting the EB-5 immigrant investor program by helping Chinese nationals — including fugitives on the nation’s “100 most wanted” list — fraudulently obtain visas, according to a document filed by the FBI and unsealed in California federal court Wednesday.
Attorney Victoria Chan and her father, Tat Chan, a foreign national, persuaded more than 100 Chinese nationals to invest a total of more than $50 million with the California Investment Immigration Fund LLC and related companies, according to a Tuesday affidavit filed by Gary Chen, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
But instead of investing the funds into American businesses, CIIF either refunded the money to the investors while their petitions were pending or stole millions of dollars to buy such things as million-dollar homes, the affidavit says.
“As a result of the fraudulent scheme, many foreign nationals were able to improperly obtain U.S. green cards through the EB-5 visa program, even though those foreigners did not in fact truly invest in U.S. businesses, nor were new American jobs created,” it states.
Not only that, but the FBI says several of the duo’s clients were on China’s “100 most wanted” list for charges such as bribery and abuse of power but still obtained green cards under the EB-5 program with petitions containing false information.
Chen filed the affidavit to obtain search warrants for the business office of CIIF in San Gabriel, homes in Arcadia and South El Monte, and a 2015 Porsche SUV registered to Victoria Chan. FBI and Homeland Security Investigations agents executed federal search warrants Wednesday at the San Gabriel business office and the two homes, Lori K. Haley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, told Law360 on Thursday.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told Law360 that the searches were conducted Wednesday at the same time the affidavit was unsealed, adding that no arrests have been made or planned yet and that the investigation is ongoing.
The affidavit states that there is probable cause to believe that Victoria and Tat Chan have committed conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud, wire fraud, visa fraud, money laundering and encouraging or inducing an unauthorized immigrant to enter or reside in the U.S. knowing that such entry or residence is in violation of federal law.
It further states that there is probable cause to believe that evidence of such crimes could be found in the California homes and vehicle for which the search warrants had been sought.
Chen said in the affidavit that a proposed mixed-use hotel and restaurant project located in Indio, California, that was to be developed under the EB-5 program was devoid of any visible construction when he visited the site in December 2016 and that he learned that no construction permits for the site had been approved by the city, among other numerous other findings.
The FBI sent an undercover agent equipped with digital video and audio recording devices who posed as an investor interested in the EB-5 program to CIIF during the course of the investigation. The undercover agent had to pay $200 to see Victoria Chan, who told the agent that the agent's $500,000 investment would be refunded after five years and that the agent would receive the refund regardless of whether the project turned out to be profitable, according to the affidavit.
In March, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services unveiled the start of an EB-5 regional center audit program, which will involve audit teams examining documents and interviewing staffers — a move that came roughly a month before the visa program’s regional center aspect is set to expire.
In an overview on its website, USCIS said the regional center audits will be another way to boost the EB-5 visa program’s integrity and double-check information in the centers’ applications and certifications.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said the agency declined to comment. A CIIF representative did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Counsel information for the parties was not available.
The case, which appears to be under seal, is In the Matter of the Search of 225 West Valley Boulevard, case number 8:17-MJ-00088, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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