The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged two firms that illegally brokered more than $79 million of investments by foreigners seeking U.S. residency. The charges are the first against brokers handling investments in the government's EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program and follow earlier SEC actions against fraudulent EB-5 offerings.
Ireeco LLC, originally of Boca Raton, Fla., and its successor Ireeco Limited, a Hong Kong-based company operating in the U.S., were charged with acting as unregistered brokers for more than 150 EB-5 investors. The EB-5 program administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a path to legal residency for foreigners who invest directly in a U.S. business or private “regional centers” that promote economic development in specific areas and industries.
According to the SEC's order, Ireeco LLC and Ireeco Limited used their website to solicit EB-5 investors, some of whom were already in the U.S. on a temporary visa. While Ireeco LLC and Ireeco Limited promised to help investors choose the right regional center to invest with, they allegedly directed most EB-5 investors to the same handful of regional centers, ones that paid them commissions of about $35,000 per investor once USCIS approved an investor's petition for conditional residence (“green card”).
“While raising money for EB-5 projects in the U.S., these two firms were not registered to legally operate as securities brokers,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC's Miami Regional Office. “The broker-dealer registration requirements are critical safeguards for maintaining the integrity of our securities markets, and the SEC will vigorously enforce compliance with these provisions.”
Without admitting or denying the SEC's findings, Ireeco LLC and Ireeco Limited agreed to be censured and to cease and desist from committing or causing similar violations in the future. They also agreed to administrative proceedings to determine whether they should be ordered to return their allegedly ill-gotten gains, pay penalties, or both based on their violations.
The SEC's investigation was conducted by Brian Theophilus James in the Miami office, and the case was supervised by Assistant Regional Director Chedly C. Dumornay and Associate Regional Director Glenn S. Gordon. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the USCIS.
From the SEC Press Release on June 23, 2015