Investor Visa Program Gets Another Black Eye, This Time from the FBI

By David North on August 7, 2013

The immigrant investor (EB-5) program got another black eye, this time from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the Associated Press.

A USCIS-licensed regional center in South Texas, used as a conduit for funds in the EB-5 program, was raided by the FBI, which hauled away a Mercedes SUV and a "Texas-sized pick-up truck" belonging to the conspirators, according to a local reporter. Both apparently had been purchased with siphoned-off EB-5 funds, invested by wealthy Mexican nationals wanting to flee that country.

The McAllen Monitor called it a "Ponzi Scheme" because new EB-5 investments were used to pay off other, earlier investors.

The McAllen raid comes hard on the heels of the collapse of a multi-million dollar, EB-5-funded, meat-packing plant in South Dakota and the controversy about Alejandro Mayorkas' nomination to be deputy secretary of DHS and his EB-5 connections, both described in earlier blogs here and here.

The FBI work in McAllen was yet another example of some other agency doing what DHS should have done in policing its own programs. It is a (small-scale) parallel to the Security and Exchange Commission's closure of a major EB-5 fraud in Chicago earlier this summer; that one involved $145 million in mostly Chinese investments.

Similarly, it was a tiny, obscure, but alert Virginia state agency, the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, that closed the scandal-plagued University of Northern Virginia, not ICE (which had raided it two years earlier). For more on UNVA see here. This was a non-accredited, for-profit entity owned by a gentleman who also owned three Chinese grocery stores; it seemingly had hundreds and hundreds of "graduates", but by my on-site count, only four classrooms.

The state agency did not close UNVA because of its questionable role in immigration matters, but because it had, for years, not been accredited by an accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. That modest requirement is not demanded by federal law, but it is under Virginia law.

Back to South Texas. The regional center was identified as USA Now, and five of its employees were named in search warrants filed with the federal courts. Typically, investigating agencies seal such warrants, but this time they did not do so. No one has been indicted yet in this case, and when and if this happens, CIS will publish the names of those charged.

How the EB-5 funds were mishandled is shown in detail in the cited news story.