SEC returns more than $147M to foreigners promised U.S. investors visas

The suspect, Anshoo R. Sethi, told them he had building permits for what would be an exclusive environmentally sustainable hotel project near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The SEC says he allegedly sold more than $147 million in securities to invest in the development, and collected another $11 million in administrative fees, telling contributors they could earn EB-5 visas.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program gives foreign investors a path to U.S. citizenship by having a stake of $1 million or more in domestic projects – in areas of high unemployment, a half-million dollar investment can earn an investor qualification for the program.

“Sethi orchestrated an elaborate scheme and exploited these investors’ dream of earning legal U.S. residence along with a positive return on their investment in a project that was not nearly the done deal that he portrayed,” said Stephen L. Cohen, the associate director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a statement when Sethi’s accounts were frozen in February.

The man and his two companies, A Chicago Convention Center (ACCC) and Intercontinental Regional Center Trust of Chicago (IRCTC), spent more than 90 percent of the “administrative” proceeds from the visa applications. Sethi allegedly falsified much of the paperwork sent to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the SEC said in a release.