State to get $1.5 million in EB-5 settlements

Source: Jonathan Ellis, Argus Leader, March 15, 2017

The state of South Dakota on Tuesday announced the settlements of two civil lawsuits against a company that managed the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program on behalf of the state. The settlements with the South Dakota Regional Center will result in the company repaying approximately $1.5 million to the state. … The lawsuits stem from the scandal over management of the EB-5 program in South Dakota. The federal EB-5 program allows wealthy foreign investors to acquire green cards to the United States for investing $500,000 in qualifying projects that increase economic development in rural or impoverished areas of the United States. … Under former Gov. Mike Rounds, the EB-5 program was run through the Department of Tourism and State Development by a state employee named Joop Bollen. In 2009, Bollen quit his job with the state and signed a contract with the state to manage EB-5 projects through his company, SDRC. In 2011, the former head of Tourism and State Development, Richard Benda, went to work for Bollen and SDRC. In the spring of 2013, state officials learned that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating the administration of the EB-5 program in South Dakota. Benda committed suicide that October as state authorities moved to indict him for directing $550,000 in state funds to SDRC. … Last month, Bollen pleaded guilty to one felony count for diverting money from an account to protect the state from potential liability claims. … Tuesday’s settlements don’t end litigation surrounding the EB-5 program. …