Finally: Criminal Charges Filed in the South Dakota EB-5 Scandal

By David North on April 1, 2016

Finally, after years and years of avoiding the issue, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) has filed a handful of criminal charges against the former state official in charge of the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program, Joop Bollen, according to an account in the Rapid City Journal by Seth Tupper.

In a situation in which scores of millions of dollars were wasted or stolen or simply missing, as CIS has reported previously (see here and here), Bollen was charged with "unauthorized disposal of personal property subject to security interest", a set of words about as bland as you can devise.

Only $1.2 million was covered in the indictment, which said that one of the bits of missing money, $96,838.74, was transferred to Christie's Fine Art in London for the purchase of an Egyptian artifact. (Bollen has long been known as a collector of Egyptian antiquities, an expensive hobby.)

The indictment was filed by the same attorney general who refused to release the full autopsy report on the mysterious death of one of Bollen's main allies and ruled that the dead man, Richard Benda, had shot himself in the stomach, and was thus a suicide. This decision raised a bunch of eyebrows in the South Dakota press.

Most of the current charges deal with a tertiary matter, the creation of and withdrawals from an indemnification fund that was supposed to cushion the state against losses in the EB-5 program. South Dakota, at one time, was one of only two states in which the Homeland Security-licensed regional center was placed within state government. (The other state is Vermont, which has had a less eventful experience with the EB-5 program.)

While Jackley's indictment was about as slender as you could imagine, it was an indictment, which is more than one can say for the U.S. Attorney in South Dakota, Randy Seiler. He was then the acting U.S. attorney and a candidate for the permanent position who, with an FBI report in hand that was not released, decided that nobody needed to be indicted.

Were he to have decided otherwise he would have (in my theory at least) annoyed both the Obama administration,which is strangely fond of the EB-5 program, and most of the big GOP guns in the state, who would like to forget how badly the EB-5 program was mismanaged by the all-Republican state government. His title no longer includes the word "acting".

Jackley's office said that more charges might be made — let's hope so. Bollen, in the meantime, is free on a $2,500 bond.