Another Chicago real estate developer who raised money through a controversial federal visa program is facing charges that he cheated overseas investors in his projects.
The Securities & Exchange Commission has filed a lawsuit against Taher Kameli, an immigration attorney who formed several companies starting in 2009 to build assisted-living facilities in the Chicago suburbs and Florida. (You can read the suit at the end of this story.) The SEC accuses Kameli of defrauding at least 226 foreign citizens, mainly from Iran and China, who agreed to invest $88.7 million in the developments.
Kameli raised the money through the EB-5 visa program, which allows foreigners to become U.S. residents if they invest at least $500,000 in qualified business ventures, like real estate developments. The program has many critics, who contend that it's vulnerable to fraud and is used mainly by developers of luxury projects that don't need the financing.
In March, a developer who planned a 995-room hotel project near O'Hare International Airport was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he swindled 290 Chinese citizens who invested in the development through the program.
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