Friday, April 1, 2016

Re: EB-5. Bollen Gets Busted For Helping Himself To Public Money. More Compelling Q: How'd He Get Away With It In The First Place?

     The criminal charges just filed by the State of South Dakota against Joop Bollen for his audacious personal use of money that we South Dakotans had an interest in--like everything
Bollen's On The Right
Benda Later Killed Himself
(photo from
else about the EB-5 scandal--raise more questions than they're likely to answer in court.
The EB-5 program is a federally developed plan to encourage foreign investment in the United States by offering wealthy hopefuls a chance to gain entry into our country.  The foreigners get green cards for themselves and their families by putting up $500 thousand blocks of investment capital into projects that are likely to create American jobs.  It's operated through several regional centers in the U.S., South Dakota's being among them.  The one here had been run through a state-operated office by Joop Bollen, whose work was essentially being done on behalf of the state.  That ended in 2009 when Bollen was able to privatize the center, allowing his company (SDRC, inc.) to charge and collect fees from investors for services that had previously been provided by the state.  The money was pretty impressive according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center For Immigration Studies.  CIS believes South Dakota lost about $120 million of such fees.  

     It's a lot of money, and I don't have any reason to question the amount. Others may, but I have yet to see an analysis as comprehensive and convincing as CIS's.  The Sioux Falls Argus Leader provides a pretty good re-cap and timeline if you want to get into the details, but let's just say the whole affair stinks to high heaven. That Bollen was able to hijack a lucrative deal for the state and make it his own private entity is a story that needs to be explained and ultimately exposed. It calls all sorts of questions to mind, principally those involving conflicts-of-interest and the lack of oversight that allowed this to happen.  I mean, some of this stuff is actually unbelievable--particularly the part where Bollen was able to sign a contract with himself on behalf of the State of South Dakota. The "you gotta be kidding me" reaction should make everybody wonder about competence or collusion in Pierre.  
    As to the charges themselves, they come in as a "class-six felony."  I suppose you could call this the low-end of nefariousness on the scale of criminality, but each of the five charges claims that Bollen helped himself to funds that were set aside to be used by the State of South Dakota as a third party in case things went financially awry with any aspects of EB-5 activities.  It's the same as, say, selling a car that has a loan against it without telling the lender.  That amounts to theft.  If true and if
Yes It May
Was Rounds Clueless Or Clued-In?
(photo from
Bollen is found guilty, he could spend up to 2 years in the slammer and pay a fine of 4 thousand bucks on each charge.  Of considerable interest, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has noted, these are preliminary charges, subject to amendment and addition.

     Meantime, should we get an actual trial, there might be some interesting news about how Bollen was able to get away with this stuff.  If not directly addressed in the trial, at some point during the course--or as a consequence--of the trial I would certainly love to hear U.S Senator Mike Rounds explain how this occurred during Rounds' tenure as Governor of South Dakota.  I also wouldn't mind hearing from the South Dakota Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee.   I want to know why that body seemed okay with the SD State Legislature's cursory examination of the mess and its less-than-aggressive pursuit of the truth from Joop Bollen.  As has been all too typical about EB-5 in South Dakota, the more you learn, the more you gotta wonder.  

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