New Yorkers accused of defrauding Chinese investors by selling access to Trump
Sherry Li, 50, and Lianbo “Mike” Wang, 45, of Oyster Bay, a hamlet on the north shore of Long Island, were arrested Monday, court records show, and charged with wire fraud, money laundering and money and conspiracy to defraud the United States, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The pair dangled green cards to Chinese investors, promising that if they invested in their fake real estate project – which included plans for a sprawling school, the ‘Thompson Education Center’ and an amusement park in the state of New York – they would receive legal residency in the United States through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, prosecutors said.
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According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the program “reserves EB-5 visas for participants who invest in business ventures” in certain areas, especially rural ones like Sullivan County, NY, where Li and Wang, naturalized U.S. citizens, had promised to develop the complex, claiming to have chosen the location specifically because it “fits clearly into [USCIS’s] definition of the target area for the EB-5 program.
Prosecutors said Li and Wang defrauded more than 150 investors in the scheme, raising around $27 million, including $16.5 million from people who were waiting for a green card for their investment and $11 million from investors who thought the project’s parent company would go public.
They also showcased a vestige of connections to senior Trump administration officials, posting Press Releases about Li getting close to politicians such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trump at galas and breakfasts. They sold access to Trump fundraisers, prosecutors said, by filtering Chinese money through their companies’ bank accounts and bringing in investors as guests, with Li and Wang making the donations.
In one case, they charged 12 non-US citizens $93,000 per person, or more than $1 million, to attend a June 2017 Trump fundraiser with the president before illegally donating $600,000 to the committee. fundraising, according to the Department of Justice.
Beneath the facade, Li and Wang siphoned off the money to fund their lifestyle, the Justice Department said, using the money from investors to pay for clothes, jewelry, housing, vacation trips and “high-end restaurants”.
The real estate project was also a sham, according to the United States, with the only funds actually invested in the project being used “simply to create and perpetuate the fiction that the [Thompson Education Center] The project was a viable development project that was actually under construction. The project, which Li announced in 2013 as China City of America, has yet to come to fruition. His Facebook page categorizes it as a Chinese restaurant.
Prosecutors alleged in court papers that Li and Wang lied to investors by telling them they were “guaranteed to receive a green card in return for their investment,” that the project was already under construction, that the parent company of the project would be made public on the New York Stock Exchange and that their “connections with elected officials and high-ranking government officials ensured [Thompson Education Center] Policy support project to obtain regulatory approvals.
None of this was true, prosecutors said.
Not a single investor received a temporary or permanent green card, prosecutors said. Instead, USCIS in 2017 began issuing “Notices of Intent to Deny ‘Green Card Applications’ because USCIS did not find [the project’s] credible business plan.
He is illegal for foreign nationals to donate money “directly or indirectly” to federal, state, or local campaigns, or to a committee of a political party. It is also illegal for anyone to “solicit, accept or receive” such contributions from a foreign national.
It was not immediately clear whether Li and Wang had legal representation. Messages overnight to a phone number and email address associated with Li’s company did not immediately elicit a response. Representatives for Trump, who were not named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement that Li and Wang deceived investors “by misleadingly claiming that their fictitious project had the support of prominent politicians.” Additionally, he said, “defendants were able to perpetrate this fraud by then selling access to US politicians” at fundraisers.
Peace said his office was “committed to protecting our democratic process from those who would expose it to unlawful foreign influence, and investors from predatory fraudsters who would steal their money.”
The US called for tough bail conditions for Li and Wang ‘given the serious flight risk’ each posed, including limitations on their movements and the surrender of passports and assets to the states. United States and China. Li and Wang have dual American and Chinese citizenship, according to court documents, and the United States does not have an extradition treaty with China.