Attorneys for the former head of South Dakota's investment-for-visa program say prosecutors shouldn't be allowed to offer evidence about how Joop Bollen spent more than $1.2 million he's accused of illegally diverting from the program.
Bollen faces felony charges for allegedly misappropriating money from the EB-5 visa program for personal purchases including fine art and Egyptian artifacts. Attorneys for Bollen on Wednesday asked a Brown County judge not to allow evidence about how he used investor dollars, saying it would unfairly discredit him.
"If Mr. Bollen had donated all the money to charity, the State would be up in arms if Mr. Bollen wanted to introduce such evidence. It does not matter whether Mr. Bollen used the money to make a charitable contribution or to fund a luxury vacation," attorneys Reed Rasmussen and Julie Dvorak wrote in a court document. "The only issue in regard to motive is whether he intended to defraud the State, i.e., intended to impair the state's security interest."
Bollen pleaded not guilty to the charges in June.
Rasmussen and Dvorak said the state's attorneys shouldn't be able to discredit Bollen in the jury's eyes for being financially successful and having the funds needed to make those purchases. Neither immediately responded to a request for comment Wednesday.
The comments Wednesday come in response to a request from Brent Kempema, South Dakota assistant attorney general, to allow evidence showing Bollen's withdrawals from the SDRC, Inc. accounts and fund transfers. According to an affidavit, some of the mishandled money ended up with Christie's Fine Art in London, Bollen's close personal friend in Georgia and to a collector of Egyptian artifacts. Bollen was known to be an art collector.
Kempema said the evidence of where the money ended up could help establish motive and is important in informing a jury.
"Here, the proffered evidence is simply the end of Defendant's alleged criminal conduct," Kempema wrote. "The proffered evidence is so connected to the charges that without the proffered evidence the jury would be forced to consider the allegations and make a determination as to Defendant's actions in a vacuum."
Kempema didn't immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment Wednesday.
A Brown County judge is set to hear arguments next week and establish some of the specifics about Bollen's jury trial, which is set for February 6-10.
- South Dakota
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