A Chicago hotel developer was sentenced today to three years in prison for exploiting a federal visa program to fraudulently raise capital from Chinese nationals who were seeking residency in the United States.
ANSHOO SETHI, the founder of A Chicago Convention Center LLC, purported in 2011 to build a hotel and convention center near O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Sethi solicited Chinese nationals to invest $500,000 apiece in the project, plus $41,500 in administrative fees to Sethi’s company. Each Chinese national who participated in the project also applied for an EB-5 visa, which allows foreign investors to obtain a temporary two-year visa that could later be converted to a permanent visa upon success of an employment-generating investment. While soliciting investors Sethi made several false statements, including lies about funding and tax credits from the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago, none of which materialized.
The $900 million project never got off the ground, and no EB-5 visas were ever granted to investors.
Sethi, 32, of Chicago, pleaded guilty last year to one count of wire fraud. In addition to the 36-month prison term, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee also ordered Sethi to pay $8.85 million in restitution to the victim investors.
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