Dargey Fraud Adds Strike Against Foreign Investor Program EB-5
An Everett developer’s guilty plea Wednesday to federal fraud charges is the latest example of abuse of the EB-5 program offering green cards to foreign investors.
Lobsang Dargey used the program to fuel his fast rise in the Puget Sound real estate industry. Now, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison and must repay investors $24 million.
Before his legal troubles began, the 43-year-old claimed to be a rags-to-riches story come true. He says he grew up dirt poor in rural Tibet, and came to the United States in 1997 with hardly a dollar to his name.
After nearly 20 years in the country, he still struggles with English, reading at a grade-school level. Yet he understands how to sell investors and public officials on development projects, including a proposed 41-story tower in Seattle. And he speaks fluent Chinese. China is home to many newly-minted millionaires who want to move to the U.S.
Dargey raised more than $150 million from Chinese nationals intent on moving to America, purportedly for his Seattle tower and a mixed-use apartment building in Everett. Yet, he now admits to using millions of dollars for other construction projects, personal shopping sprees, a luxury home and trips to casinos.
His fraud is hardly the first time criminals have used the EB-5 program, which is run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as cover. The program’s popularity has soared since the Great Recession — and so have the ranks of critics and opponents calling for extensive reforms, if not ending it outright.
The program’s defenders say it has brought billions of dollars into the country and created thousands of jobs.