(Courtesy photo)

Oakland businessman, two others indicted in immigration scam

An Oakland businessman and two other people have been indicted on wire fraud and other charges for allegedly defrauding foreign investors in a jobs program overseen by federal immigration officials, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Thomas Henderson, 70, of Oakland, Cooper Lee, 42, formerly of Oakland, and Kexing Hu aka Peter Hu, 40, of Ningbo, China, are accused of a scam involving the Employment-Based Immigration, Fifth Preference Category Program, known as the EB-5 visa program, prosecutors said.

Henderson, the founder and owner of the San Francisco Regional Center LLC, and Hu over a six year period from 2011 to 2017 allegedly raised more than $110 million from more than 200 foreign investors who believed they were paying to fund one of seven EB-5-related businesses sponsored by Henderson’s SFRC.

The EB-5 program is overseen by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and allows foreign nationals to obtain green cards for permanent U.S. residency by investing in qualifying American businesses.

Henderson allegedly submitted false documents to the USCIS, stating investor funds would be used for the startup and operation of EB-5 projects, when he was in fact improperly diverting funds for other purposes, prosecutors said.

The indictment alleges that Henderson diverted more than $17 million of $21 million raised for one of the projects and spent it on earlier money-losing projects.

The scam jeopardized the creation of more than 2,000 jobs in Oakland and the surrounding area, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Henderson was arrested Tuesday in Oakland and made his initial appearance in court. He is scheduled to return on Oct. 1 for a status conference.

Lee was arrested in Laguna Beach in Southern California, while Hu remains at large, prosecutors said.

Henderson and Hu are both charged with 12 counts of wire fraud and Lee is charged with six counts. All three defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit offenses against the U.S.

-Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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