Issues of corruption, fraud in investor-visa program date back two decades

Suspected abuses end up with 1 prosecution

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The agency then proposed that ICE “immediately implement and prioritize an investigative initiative targeting (initially) three of the most prolific/egregious suspect EB-5 promoters.”

Unknown status

Asked for comment about the status of EB-5 and the investigations, USCIS referred questions to ICE, which did not provide answers Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which coordinates with USCIS on investigations but doesn’t have autonomous authority to conduct related criminal probes, said Tuesday that it’s agency policy to neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of any civil investigation unless and until an enforcement action is filed.

In February 2013, the agency charged an Illinois man with fraudulently selling more than $145 million in securities to more than 250 investors, primarily from China, purportedly to invest in a hotel and conference center near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

A husband and wife in Texas were charged in October with fraudulently raising at least $5 million by falsely promising that their money would be used as part of the investor program.

Almost all foreign investments in the EB-5 program are channeled through special companies called “regional centers.”

Once their business plans are approved by immigration officials, the companies bundle investments into qualifying new businesses. Investors then can apply for EB-5 visas, and, if approved, can claim conditional green cards immediately upon entry to the U.S. After two years, the conditions are removed if the investment has created the jobs or looks likely to do so.

New cleanup efforts

USCIS is in the middle of a massive effort to tighten controls of the program. An inspector general report in December said the agency has faced headwinds in administering the program essentially because the enacting legislation does not give the bureau the authority to police itself or the program effectively.

In response, the agency plans to update regulations to provide clarity on establishing eligibility under the program and that within six months of the report, the agency would develop and implement a plan that includes collaboration with the Department of Commerce and the SEC, among other fixes.

A report released this month by the Brookings Institution found similar problems with a lack of oversight within the program, saying the U.S. Department of Commerce should supervise adjudication of regional centers and generate better public data to more effectively track the performances of the centers.

Separately, the inspector general is investigating whether Mr. Mayorkas improperly intervened in a batch of investor visas on behalf of Virginia-based financing company Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC.

Gulf Coast is run by Anthony Rodham, the brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and is the finance arm of GreenTech Automotive, a company founded by longtime Clinton fundraiser Terry McAuliffe.

Mr. McAuliffe, who divested from the company after being elected governor of Virginia in November, has denied impropriety, as has Mr. Mayorkas and Gulf Coast officials. No evidence of criminal wrongdoing has been found.

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