The ex-wife of a former Chinese official was arrested Tuesday in Newcastle, Washington on charges that she and her former husband laundered money to buy property in Washington state and lied to obtain U.S. visas through the immigrant investor program.
A federal grand jury indicted Shilan Zhao (趙世蘭), 51, of Newcastle, Washington, and her ex-husband Jianjun Qiao (喬建軍), 51, for conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and international transport of stolen funds, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Zhao also faces one substantive count of immigration fraud.
She appeared Tuesday in federal court in Seattle, Washington. She was ordered detained and held without bond.
Qiao isn’t in custody. He’s a fugitive being sought by U.S. authorities, the DOJ said.
To obtain visas under the EB-5 immigrant investor program, the divorced couple lied about the source of money Zhao invested in the United States, the DOJ said. They also claimed to U.S. immigration authorities that they were still married.
The indictment said they bought a home in the Seattle suburb of Newcastle with laundered money. The $500,000 they used to buy the house came from fraudulent transactions from a grain storehouse in Zhoukou City, Henan Province, China where Qiao served as director from 1998 to 2011, the DOJ said.
Zhao allegedly said under oath on documents submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that she owned interests in companies worth at least $500,000 — the minimum investment amount under the EB-5 visa program. Investigators later learned she didn’t own the interests, the DOJ said.
Zhao faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted of conspiracy to commit international transport of stolen funds and immigration fraud, 10 years for the immigration fraud charge, and 20 years for the money laundering conspiracy charge.
The DOJ said it had help from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.