The EB-5 irony is so thick that you can spread it like peanut butter. We would not have known about this except for a letter-writing supporter of the embattled immigrant investor program. (This is the arrangement that grants a family-sized set of green cards to aliens who place $500,000 — soon to be $900,000 — in a U.S. government-designated, but not guaranteed, investment.)
Here are the unwitting characters in this apparently forgotten tragedy, full of fatal gunshot wounds and dead politicians:
- Angelique Brunner, who is alive, wrote a letter to the editor supporting the EB-5 program that appeared in the Washington Post this week; the letter, apparently inspired by Post coverage of an EB-5 scandal in Front Royal, Va., mentions that U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) is among those working to "reform the program".
- Daniel T. McEeathron, the Sheriff of Virginia's Warren County, and a player in the Front Royal scandal, is dead.
- Richard Benda, once both a Rounds-appointed state cabinet member in South Dakota and a major participant in the sweeping EB-5 scandal in that state earlier in this decade, is also dead.
- Sen. Rounds not only was governor during the massive EB-5 scandals in his state, the South Dakota EB-5 program was run out of a state government agency; he is currently alive and well in the Senate.
- Both Benda and McEathron committed suicide by shooting themselves, the latter neatly in the mouth, while the former, not so neatly, found a stick to push the trigger on a shotgun aimed at his stomach. Or so ruled another Rounds ally, the then-Attorney General of South Dakota, Marty Jackley. Jackley, in turn, refused to release the full text of the autopsy, saying he was doing so at the request of Benda's estranged wife.
It should be acknowledged that embezzlement of the aliens' money is much more common in the EB-5 program than violent deaths, but without Brunner's letter we would not have been reminded of this grisly coincidence.
She and I crossed paths a couple of years ago when she was a witness for the continuation of the EB-5 program at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, and I was a witness for its termination.