How Trump lawyer Michael Cohen played EB-5 intermediary for major middleman (that's also worked on Atlantic Yards investor visas)
The gist: the EB-5 investor visa program is just as sketchy as we suspect, and a key national figure in it--who's raised money for Atlantic Yards--is at the heart of it.
(Also see derivative coverage in The Hill, Cohen referred client with Kushner ties to lobbying firm, and the New York Times, How Michael Cohen, Denied Job in White House, Was Seen as Its Gatekeeper.)
From the WSJ lead:
President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen helped a law and lobbying firm land a corporate client with ties to Kushner Cos., the family company of White House adviser Jared Kushner that is currently the subject of a federal probe.The U.S. Immigration Fund (USIF), of course, is the country's leading "regional center," or private packager of loans, in the world of EB-5, and has raised some $349 million ("Atlantic Yards II," "Atlantic Yards III") for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in two tranches, as well as $90 million for the Nassau Coliseum revamp.
Under a 2017 contract with Squire Patton Boggs, Mr. Cohen was paid $500,000 a year to help it drum up business, prosecutors said in a recent filing in federal court in New York, where Mr. Cohen is under investigation for potential bank fraud and campaign-finance violations. He also received a cut of any fees it collected from clients he referred.
Among five clients Mr. Cohen delivered to Squire Patton Boggs--before the firm terminated the contract with him in early March --was U.S. Immigration Fund LLC, according to court filings and Nicholas Mastroianni II, U.S. Immigration Fund's chief executive. The Florida company connects businesses with foreign investors through a U.S. visa program.
It also has worked to raise money for a Kushner Cos. project in Jersey City, One Journal Square, but, the Wall Street Journal reported, since severed that tied after the negative publicity about a presentation by Jared Kushner's sister.
Fortune magazine in October 2014 did a devastating probe of the USIF, headlined The tangled past of the hottest money-raiser in America's visa-for-sale program. I've previously reported how USIF head Nicholas Mastroianni II admitted on video that the investor visa program did not actually create jobs because the projects for which they raised funds didn't need the money.
In other words, the lower interest rate--because the investors care about green cards, not profits--fueled profits. The absurdity at the root of the EB-5 program, though, means that not just real-estate developers can reap profits, but also middlemen like regional centers, attorneys, and migration brokers.
Lobbying for the EB-5 status quo
The new WSJ article states:
Squire Patton Boggs has received $370,000 from U.S. Immigration Fund to lobby Congress and the administration on reforming the EB-5 visa system, according to lobbying reports. The firm hasn't represented the company on any legal matters, according to a firm spokesman.In other words, gerrymandering continues to create spurious areas of high unemployment, like what I dubbed the "Bed-Stuy Boomerang."
U.S. Immigration Fund and developers have beat back efforts by lawmakers to change EB-5 rules to ban the program's use to finance projects in wealthier areas instead of in rural and high-unemployment areas.
Also, not only did Mastroianni's son contribute $100,000 to Trump's inauguration, the WSJ notes that "Mastroianni donated $150,000 last year to a joint fundraising committee in support of Mr. Trump's re-election."