Bogus Visa Brokers|Say They’ll Stop

     WASHINGTON (CN) – In its first case of the kind, the SEC on Tuesday accused two businesses of illegally brokering more than $79 million from foreigners who sought U.S. residency through the Immigrant Investor Program.
     The SEC filed a cease-and-desist order against Ireeco LLC, of Greenville, S.C., formerly of Boca Raton, Fla., and Ireeco Limited, of Hong Kong.
     Both companies are run by Floridians: Stephen Parnell, 57, of Boca Raton; and Andrew Bartlett, 61, of Osprey, Fla. Neither company ever registered with the SEC.
     The SEC accused the companies of acting as unregistered brokers for more than 150 EB-5 investors.
     Congress created the EB-5 immigrant visa program in 1992. It offers a path to U.S. residency and citizenship for foreigners who invest $1 million or more in a U.S. business that creates 10 or more jobs, or $500,000 for businesses in targeted “enterprise zones.”
     Critics at the time compared it to the fall of the Roman Empire, when desperate emperors sold Roman citizenship. But the program never attracted as many applicants as Congress hoped, and it has twiddled with it to try to attract more investors.
     The SEC accuses Ireeco of abusing the program by, among other things, using their website to solicit EB-5 investors, some of whom were already in the United States.
     The SEC also claims that though Ireeco promised to direct investors to the best regional centers, they referred most of them to the same “handful,” who kicked back $35,000 per investor if Citizenship and Immigration Services approved their visa.
     The SEC says the companies were acting as securities brokers.
     Ireeco agreed to cease and desist and to submit to further administrative proceedings to determine whether they should return the money they made and/or pay penalties.

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