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SEC accuses California lawyer of defrauding Chinese investors out of millions

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Linus Unah – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, United States (4E) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Tuesdaycharged a California-based attorney with defrauding investors seeking to participate in the EB-5 immigrant investor program.

The SEC said a Newport Beach, California, lawyer Emilio Francisco wound up stealing investors money to buy a yacht and supporting his other businesses.

In a civil fraud suit filed Tuesday, the SEC alleges that Francisco raised $72 million from investors in China solicited through his marketing firm PDC Capital to invest in EB-5 projects.

These projects included opening Caffe Primo restaurants, developing assisted living facilities, and renovating a production facility for environmentally friendly agriculture and cleaning products.

Under the EB-5 program, foreign investors can apply to permanently live and work in the U.S. by investing money in certain projects that bring about American jobs.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Francisco and PDC Capital diverted investor funds from one project to another and “stole” at least $9.6 million that was used to finance his own businesses and luxury lifestyle.

Francisco was allegedly aware that doing so would violate federal regulations and jeopardize any visas for the foreign investors, according to the SEC.

“As alleged in our complaint, Emilio Francisco illegally enriched himself with investor money intended for specific EB-5 projects that create jobs for U.S. workers,” Michele Wein Layne, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles regional office, said in a statement.

The SEC is seeking an emergency asset freeze and a court-appointed receiver over Francisco’s businesses involved in the schemes.

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