Caffe Primo investor, charged with EB-5 fraud, scraps LA expansion plans

He pocketed roughly $10M from foreign investors

Caffe Primo on Flower Street in Downtown Los Angeles (credit: Google Maps)
Caffe Primo on Flower Street in Downtown Los Angeles (credit: Google Maps)

Fans of the local food chain Caffe Primo have been fed a lot of false promises — and, allegedly, so were its EB-5 investors.

The company abandoned plans last week to open at the base of a mixed-use building at 702 Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica, years after first putting up signage that indicated the contrary, Eater reported. It is one of several promised expansions that never came to be while almost $10 million from foreign investors allegedly went directly into the pockets of Emilio Francisco, who raised EB-5 money for the Primo locations under his Costa Mesa consulting firm, PDC Capital Group.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud suit against Francisco, a Newport Beach-based lawyer, late last year. The suit alleges he abused the EB-5 program, misspending at least $9.5 million from 131 investors while failing to open the projects that fit the program’s requirements for job creation.

Instead of opening the new Primo locations he had promised investors, Francisco spent the funds on items such as a yacht, a yacht club membership, and his family members’ credit cards, the suit alleges.

Though Caffe Primo closed one of its shops on Sunset Boulevard after a judge froze Francisco’s assets earlier this year, its locations in Downtown Los Angeles and West Hollywood are still open for business, according to Eater. [ELA] – Naiwen Tian