US files 9 lawsuits seeking forfeiture of properties worth over $30 million allegedly bought with proceeds of EB-5 visa fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES –- (RealEstateRama) — Federal prosecutors have filed civil complaints seeking the forfeiture of nine real properties across Southern California that were allegedly purchased with proceeds generated by a fraudulent scheme that collected more than $50 million from foreign investors seeking “green cards” through the EB-5 visa program.

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The nine lawsuits filed Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court allege that much of the money collected from the primarily Chinese investors either was refunded to the foreign nationals or was stolen by participants in the scheme.

The asset forfeiture complaints allege that attorney Victoria Chan and her father, Tat Chan, operated a business called California Investment Immigration Fund, LLC (CIIF) from 2008 until this year. In April, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI executed federal search warrants as part of an ongoing probe.

According to the lawsuits filed Wednesday, CIIF exploited the EB-5 visa program, which provides lawful permanent residence – commonly known as a “green card” – to foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in a domestic business that creates 10 new American jobs. Those involved in the scheme allegedly convinced more than 100 Chinese nationals to invest over $50 million in CIIF and related companies.

“Rather than legitimately investing the funds into American businesses, CIIF either refunded the funds to the EB-5 investors while the investors’ EB-5 petitions were pending, in direct violation of the EB-5 program, or stole millions of dollars to use for personal expenditures, including buying million-dollar homes,” according to the lawsuits that allege “many foreign nationals were able to improperly obtain U.S. green cards.”

The lawsuits allege that the properties named in the asset forfeiture lawsuits were purchased with proceeds derived from mail fraud, wire fraud, or visa fraud and that the purchases themselves constituted money laundering.

The lawsuits seek the forfeiture of nine properties:

  • a commercial property in the City of Industry valued at over $3 million;
  • five residences in the cities of Rancho Cucamonga, Arcadia (worth approximately $4 million), Diamond Bar, Riverside and Duarte (valued at $5.5 million); and
  • parcels of land located in Ontario, Indio (worth nearly $6 million) and Rancho Cucamonga (valued at more than $7.7 million).

The asset forfeiture lawsuits contain allegations only. In order to forfeit the properties named in the complaints, the government must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the properties were purchased with proceeds derived from criminal activity.

The asset forfeiture complaints were filed by Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Galatzan of the Asset Forfeiture Section.

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforces federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety. ICE was created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the former U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries. The agency has an annual budget of approximately $6 billion, primarily devoted to two operational directorates — Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). These two operational directorates are supported by Management and Administration (M&A) and Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) to advance the ICE mission.

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