A federal District Court judge has ordered $147 million returned to people who thought they were investing in a Chicago hotel and convention center and at the same time paving their way to immigrate to the United States from China.
Anshoo R. Sethi and the two companies he created to carry out the scheme have agreed to return the money. The money has been held in escrow in SunTrust Bank since the SEC obtained a court order to freeze all of Sethi’s assets in February. He created A Chicago Convention Center LLC and Intercontinental Regional Center Trust of Chicago LLC as part of the investment scheme. He fraudulently misrepresented the project and his background to investors, the SEC says.
Sethi, 29, convinced more than 250 investors mostly from China to invest $500,000 in the convention center and hotel under the premise that he had interest from major hotel chains and that he had obtained all of the necessary building permits, according to the SEC, which announced yesterday that the money would be returned.
Sethi also collected $11 million in fees that was supposed to be returned to the investors if their visas were not granted. Instead he spent the money himself, the SEC says.
He did not have any interest from major hotel chains and had only obtained a couple of minor permits for construction, including a permit for a tent for the groundbreaking ceremony, the SEC says. He has since terminated the project.
The 29-year-old also made other misrepresentations, including saying he had more than 15 years of experience in real estate development and management. He also said the project’s developer had more than 35 years of experience when the corporation had just been formed in 2010.
The investors were putting money into the project under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, which allows investors to immigrate to the United States if they invest at least $500,000 in a project that creates or preserves at least 10 American jobs in targeted areas with high unemployment rates.
The SEC is continuing to pursue the litigation as it seeks further monetary relief and permanent injunctions against Sethi and his companies.