Federal investigators served search warrants Wednesday at a San Gabriel Valley business and two homes in connection with a probe into an alleged $50 million high-end visa fraud scheme involving as many as 100 Chinese nationals.
Laura Eimiller of the FBI confirmed the warrants were being served in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Office. According to a federal affidavit in support of a search warrant, authorities were searching the offices of the California Investment Immigration Fund in San Gabriel, along with a home in Arcadia and a townhouse in El Monte.
According to the affidavit, the three suspects targeted in the investigation allegedly operated a scheme involving the EB-5 visa program, which offers foreign nationals legal residency in the United States in exchange for investments of at least $500,000 in U.S. businesses that create at least 10 American jobs.
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Prosecutors allege that the suspects convinced more than 100 Chinese nationals to invest more than $50 million with the California Investment Immigration Fund, which the suspects operated, or its related companies.
"However, rather than legitimately investing the funds into American businesses, CIIF either refunded the funds to the EB-5 investors while their 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 affidavit. "As a result of the fraudulent scheme, many foreign nationals were able to improperly obtain U.S. green cards through the EB-5 visa program, even though those foreigners did not in fact truly invest in U.S. businesses, nor were new American jobs created," according to the document.
Prosecutors contend in the affidavit that several people who took advantage of the program to come the United States were fugitives on China's 100-most-wanted list. At least three of those fugitives were ultimately issued green cards under the program, "even though their EB-5 petitions contained false information," according to the affidavit.