BREAKING: A grand jury in Brooklyn has returned an indictment in the federal case against Sherry Li and Lianbo "Michael" Wang - along with a co-conspirator based in Beijing - regarding an alleged EB5 visa scheme surrounding their China City of America (Thompson Education Center) project that never got off the ground in Sullivan County.
Li and Wang - who were arrested in July at their Oyster Bay, Long Island home - are accused of perpetuating a "massive, multi-layered" fraud scheme targeting foreign nationals ranging from a sham real estate investment, (TEC) promised benefits for payment, the solicitation for access to U.S. politicians, to making illegal donations for campaigns," according to federal officials.
They each face three charges: wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) administration of campaign finance laws.
Conviction on all three charges alone could result in prison terms of 45 years, prosecutors say. "The staggering scope of this alleged fraud was facilitated by an abuse in the investor visa process,” Ricky J. Patel, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York, said.
The criminal complaint against the pair was unsealed in July, the same day that the Department of Justice announce their arrests in a detailed press release.
According to the federal complaint and news release, more than 150 investors - based mostly in China - were duped out of $27 million for the fictitious China City of America development that later became known as Thompson Education Center, set on some 575 acres in the Town of Thompson.
Many local business leaders and government officials were all in for the project, first introduced in 2013.
Allan Scott, former CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development and a former Town of Bethel supervisor, played a key role in promoting the project as a consultant to the pair.
Former Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini was also a big supporter.
"We have letters from locals all the time telling us not to let them do it," Cellini said once the scale of the project was made public. "(But) you don't turn away a developer that wants to spend millions of dollars in your community. You've got to listen and work with them."
The Town of Fallsburg Zoning Board, under the administration of Supervisor Steve Vegliante, later gave Li approval to break ground on part of the proposed Thompson Education Center facility (which was actually by Li to be used as a residence) that was then used by Li and Wang to allegedly make false claims about the status of the project. A company that was contracted by Li to build the home sued Li for non-payment of fees.