Marco and Bebe Ramirez were recently charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for fraudulently obtaining at least $5 million from foreign investors. The pair raised the funds by falsely promising that their money would be invested in a regional center as part of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program.
The EB-5 program is for investors and employment-creation. Investors who invest between $500,000 and $1 million are able to obtain a Green Card within approximately 18 months. There are essentially two ways to be eligible for the EB-5 visa, through a $1,000,000 investment in a qualifying commercial enterprise, or through a $500,000 investment in what is called a “regional center.”
According to the SEC report, The Ramirez’s used the funds raised for their own personal expenses and businesses, and may even have funded payments to existing investors as part of a Ponzi scheme. The investors targeted by the couple were predominantly from Mexico, though there were others from Egypt and Nigeria. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services helped the SEC with its investigation, as the Ramirez’s had applied to USCIS for regional center designation of one of their companies, USA Now, LLC. The SEC reports that investors were told their funds would be held in escrow until USCIS approved the regional center.
The SEC is seeking relief including preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, as well as financial penalties.