A Southern California attorney pleaded guilty Monday to running a scam that authorities say collected more than $50 million from wealthy Chinese investors seeking green cards.
Victoria Chan, 35, of the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte faces up to 45 years in prison when she is sentenced July 9 in federal court on visa fraud, wire fraud and money laundering charges.
Authorities said Chan and her father operated a company, California Investment Immigration Fund, LLC, that applied for green cards for wealthy investors.
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Under the government's EB-5 visa program, such cards granting permanent residency may be obtained by people who invest at least $500,000 in a domestic business that creates at least 10 new American jobs.
Chan admitted she filed about 130 such applications for green cards, promising that investors in exchange would establish numerous job-creating construction projects. Authorities said no such projects were established and no new jobs created.
Chan acknowledged she used about $25 million of the investment money to purchase residential properties for herself. She also returned some of the money to the investors.
Authorities said some of those seeking green cards were criminals whose names are on China's "100 Most Wanted" list.
"This fraud scheme subverted the federal immigration process, which resulted in dozens of foreign nationals obtaining green cards they were not entitled to receive," said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown.
Authorities said Chan will forfeit eight properties worth $25 million.
"Our message is clear — America's legal immigration system is not for sale," said Joseph Macias, who heads Homeland Security Investigations for Los Angeles.
He said visa fraud poses security risks for the United States and penalizes green-card applicants who use the program properly.