South El Monte lawyer pleads guilty to $50M EB-5 visa-fraud scheme in San Gabriel

FBI agents bringing out boxes of evidence from California Investment Immigration Fund office in San Gabriel. Feds raid San Gabriel Valley locations Wednesday, April 5, 2017 over alleged scheme giving green cards to criminals on Chinese most-wanted list. FBI Special Agent Cathy Kramer said one employee was on site as agents arrived at the California Investment Immigration Fund office in San Gabriel. The employee is not a subject of the investigation. By noon, agents were still searching for evidence, packing evidence in 30-40 boxes. California Investment Immigration Fund office is located in the first floor of the San Gabriel Hilton.(Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)By CHRISTOPHER YEE | | San Gabriel Valley Tribune

November 27, 2017 at 5:48 pm | UPDATED: November 27, 2017 at 5:52 pm

A South El Monte attorney pleaded guilty Monday to federal fraud and money laundering charges stemming from a $50 million visa fraud scheme that gave green cards to Chinese nationals, including criminals on China’s most wanted list.

Victoria Chan pleaded guilty to exploiting the EB-5 visa program, which allows immigrants to the United States to receive green cards in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in an American business that creates jobs.

Chan ran the fraud scheme through a San Gabriel-based business called the California Investment Immigration Fund, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Investigators alleged that Chan’s father, Tat Chan, was also involved in running the scheme. Thom Mrozek, a spokesmen with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said an investigation into Tat Chan’s involvement in the scheme was ongoing, but that there was no pending court case against him.

FBI and federal immigration agents seized records in an April raid at CIIF’s office in the Hilton hotel at 225 West Valley Blvd. in San Gabriel and at homes in Arcadia and South El Monte where Chan family members lived.

Among the charges Victoria Chan pleaded guilty to Monday were conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and international money laundering.

She is set to be sentenced July 9 and faces a maximum of 45 years in federal prison.

Chan, 35, admitted to submitting about 130 fraudulent EB-5 visa applications claiming funds would be invested into legitimate construction projects. Instead, Chan refunded most of that money back to the original investors, keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars for herself. Officials said in the statement that Chan used the funds to purchase homes in her name, including homes worth nearly $1 million each in Diamond Bar and Rancho Cucamonga.

Chan and other family members agreed to forfeit eight properties linked to the scheme worth a total of nearly $25 million. A ninth property in Rancho Cucamonga is expected to be forfeited in the coming weeks, according to the statement.

“Defendant Chan got rich by operating a long-term fraudulent scheme during which she manipulated a government program intended to encourage investors and stimulate the U.S. economy,” said Danny Kennedy, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, in a statement.

Prior to the searches, CIIF received commendations from several local politicians, with most posted in the office’s front window.