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EB-5 round-up: Trump and Cuomo contributors; the Kushner connect; Staten Island project shaky

EB-5 money is sluicing all around us. And it so often seems sketchy.

USA Today reported, 7/18/17, The developer of a 'China City' in rural New York emerges as a major Trump donor:
WASHINGTON — Sherry Li, a Long Island businesswoman who once proposed a sprawling Chinese Disneyland in the Catskill Mountains, is far from a prominent figure in national politics.
But she and a business associate have just emerged as some of the year’s biggest financial backers of President Trump’s political operation. Late last month, Li and Lianbo Wang, described in federal election filings as her corporate board member, donated a combined $600,000 to Trump Victory, the fundraising committee the president established with the Republican National Committee to attract high-dollar contributors.
Li is now pursuing the development of a higher-education center on the property she controls in rural New York. Her business plans could intersect with the policies of the new Trump administration on everything from immigration to the regulation of for-profit colleges.
...Li first attracted headlines in New York with her bold 2013 plan to build what she called a “China City of America” nestled in the foothills of the Catskills. 
I wrote in 2015 about this astoundingly fanciful plan, which would rely on EB-5 funding. USA Today could not determine whether EB-5 is still on the table for the project, now called the Thompson Education Center.

The Kushner connect

Then CNN reported, 7/21/17, Exclusive: Jared Kushner's White House connection still being used to lure Chinese investors:
Jared Kushner's status as a top aide to President Donald Trump was used to lure Chinese investors to his family's New Jersey development, even after his family's company apologized for mentioning his name during a sales pitch in May, CNN has found.
References to Kushner are part of online promotions by two businesses that are working with Kushner Companies to find Chinese investors willing to invest in the 1 Journal Square development in exchange for a US visa.
The promotions are posted in Chinese and refer to Kushner Companies as "real estate heavyweights," going on to mention "the celebrity of the family is 30-something 'Mr. Perfect' Jared Kushner, who once served as CEO of Kushner Companies."
Well, guess what. The principals are the U.S. Immigration Fund, the regional center raising money for Kushner's projects, and the Chine migration agency Qiao Wai, both of which have worked on Atlantic Yards fundraising. Remember how Qiao Wai tried to use a U.S. State Department official to market Atlantic Yards?

Cash for Cuomo

As the Real Deal reported, Cuomo deposits $595K from NYC real estate players for re-election campaign:
EB-5 guru Nicholas Mastroianni and his US Immigration Fund chipped in a total of $40,000. US Immigration Fund has brokered EB-5 financing for a number of Manhattan luxury condos, as well as for two Kushner Companies projects in New Jersey. Earlier this year, Mastroianni’s son ranked among a number of prominent executives who gave $100,000 to President Trump’s inaugural committee.
The New York Daily News made it a headline, Gov. Cuomo’s reelection campaign got thousands from firm that helps foreign investors obtain visas:
Cuomo’s campaign received $30,000 on April 19th from the U.S. Immigration Fund - NY, an investment pool that recruits foreign investors and helps them obtain EB-5 visas, which critics have derided as the so-called “Golden Visa” program.
Nicholas Mastroianni, an executive with the fund, also gave Cuomo $10,000 on the same day, according to a financial statement filed this week by Cuomo’s reelection campaign.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said it was “silly” to question the governor’s record on immigration.
Indeed, the issue isn't immigration. It's helping big developers, as I've described, and Mastroianni has even admitted his projects don't need the money.

A shaky New York Wheel?

The Real Deal reported, 7/21/17, New York Wheel delays could spell disaster for project’s EB-5 investors:
Staten Island’s embattled New York Wheel recently hit another major setback when the developer fired its design and construction team, delaying the project indefinitely. It’s a huge blow not just for the city’s Ferris wheel enthusiasts but also for the project’s EB-5 investors, who experts say could face deportation if the wheel doesn’t quickly get back in gear.
...Experts on EB-5, a controversial program that requires overseas investors to contribute $500,000 or more on job-creating real estate projects in exchange for a green card — agree that the situation looks bleak for these investors. Canam’s website projects that the wheel will create 5,844 jobs, and if these jobs do not arrive—a strong possibility, given the project’s delays—it is very unlikely that the investors will be able to get their green cards and stay in the country, Butler said.
EB-5 investors generally have two years after getting their temporary visas, normally issued after their money is put in escrow, to show that the project has been completed and the jobs have been created, according to Butler.
But the jobs don't need to be "created" as headcount, the jobs are created by spending. Keep in mind that, as I reported in January 2016, according to the New York Wheel's official web site, below right in graphic, the project's construction "will create approximately 350 union construction jobs and 600 permanent jobs." That adds up to 950.

At the time, the EB-5 promoter was projecting 4,939 jobs. Now they projected even more. We just can't really count them.

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