A trio of Chinese investors is suing a California family that operated as EB-5 visa intermediaries, accusing them of stealing more than $1.5 million. The lawsuit comes a few months after one of the defendants pleaded guilty on separate federal charges to defrauding a pool of EB-5 investors of $50 million.
The defendants in the latest suit: attorney Victoria Chan, her father Tat Chan, and mother Zheng Chan, along with Zeng Fang, ran an entity called the California Investment Immigration Fund LLC, and nearly a dozen other related funds, the suit charges. The defendants told Chinese investors that they were contributing money in EB-5 projects, which would allow them to obtain get green cards.
But, the Chans and Fang were taking the money for themselves, according to the lawsuit, which was filed last month in State Superior Court in Los Angeles.
The three plaintiffs are Tian Li, Yan Sheng Yang, and Jun Jie Zeng. All three live in China. They claim that in 2011 they gave the Chans more than $500,000 each for EB-5 program investments, along with thousands more in fees the defendants allegedly charged, the suit said. The $500,000 figure is the minimum investment per person required to qualify for permanent lawful residence in the U.S., through the federal EB-5 program.
Instead of using the money for a real estate project, the defendants are accused of spending it on “lavish items such as vehicles, homes, and other real estate properties,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants are “believed to have bought more than a dozen residences” around Southern California, including in Diamond Bar, Arcadia, Bradbury, Rancho Cucamonga, and Riverside. At least five of the homes were reportedly worth more than $1 million each.
The investors want a judge to give them control of those residential properties in order to return their investment. They also want damages for their emotional distress, according to the suit.
The Chans have already agreed to hand over at least eight of those properties worth around $25 million, to the federal government, in connection to a November plea deal, according to reports. The government’s case against Victoria and Tat Chan was similar to allegations in the most recent lawsuit. In the government’s case, father and daughter were accused of taking millions from investors and using the money to buy luxury homes for themselves, also throughout Southern California, The Real Deal previously reported.
In the most recent lawsuit, an attorney for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.
The number for the California Investment Immigration Fund was no longer working and the company’s website has since been taken down.