The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges and an asset freeze Friday against an Illinois man and two companies behind an an alleged fraudulent investment scheme targeting foreign investors seeking profitable returns and a legal path to U.S. residency through a federal visa program.
The SEC alleges that Anshoo R. Sethi created A Chicago Convention Center and Intercontinental Regional Center Trust of Chicago and fraudulently sold more than $145 million in securities and collected $11 million in administrative fees from more than 250 investors primarily from China.
Sethi and his companies duped investors into believing that by purchasing interests in ACCC, they would be financing construction of the “World’s First Zero Carbon Emission Platinum LEED certified” hotel and conference center near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the government claims. Investors were misled to believe their investments were simultaneously enhancing their prospects for U.S. citizenship through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, which provides foreign investors an avenue to U.S. residency by investing in domestic projects that will create or preserve a minimum number of jobs for U.S. workers.
The SEC alleges that Sethi and his companies falsely boasted to investors that they had acquired all the necessary building permits and that several major hotel chains had signed onto the project. They also provided falsified documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – the federal agency that administers the EB-5 program – in an attempt to secure the agency’s preliminary approval of the project and investors’ provisional visas. Meanwhile, Sethi and his companies have spent more than 90 percent of the administrative fees collected from investors despite their promise to return this money to investors if their visa applications are denied. More than $2.5 million of these funds were directed to Sethi’s personal bank account in Hong Kong.