Ex-wife of former Chinese official pleads guilty to fraud
Zhao Shilan, the ex-wife of a former Chinese official, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit immigration fraud related to EB-5 investor visas.
Zhao, 53, pleaded guilty on Jan 9 to one count of conspiring with her ex-husband, Qiao Jianjun, to fraudulently obtain visas to enter the United States. She was arrested in March 2015 in Newcastle, Washington.
Qiao, 53, also known as Feng Li, is accused of embezzling funds while serving as director of a grain company in China's Henan province. He remains a fugitive who is being sought by federal authorities, according to the US attorney office in Los Angeles.
Qiao also is on a priority list of 150 people that Chinese prosecutors gave to the US State Department. China wanted help in finding and repatriating money they allegedly embezzled, as well as the suspects.
As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Zhao agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov 6. Zhao will face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison.
According to the plea agreement signed by Zhao on Dec 21, Zhao submitted false supporting materials to US federal authorities in May 2008, including a false marriage certificate and false papers documenting the source of her investment, which was required under the EB-5 immigrant investor program to obtain US immigrant visas.
Qiao prepared or obtained the documents and Zhao knew at least some of the documents were false, according to the plea agreement.
According to the indictment, Zhao and Qiao were divorced but pretended to remain married and lied about the source of Zhao's foreign investments in order to obtain US immigrant visas.
In 2009, the two received visas as a couple and came to the US that October. In mid-2011, Zhao applied to have her green card made permanent.
By early 2012, the pair had about $2.2 million in laundered funds deposited in a Canadian bank account. They purchased property in Seattle and Newcastle in the state of Washington with money Qiao allegedly laundered from fraudulent transactions.
In her plea agreement, Zhao agreed that $25,000 used to pay her bond can be applied to any restitution or other monetary penalties ordered in this case. She also agreed to forfeit her interest in several parcels in a house in Newcastle and a condominium in New York.
"The EB-5 investor visa program requires all immigrant investors to accurately document the source of their funds in their application," said IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando.
This case received assistance from the Supreme People's Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security of China.