By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Months before his company blamed Watchdog.org for its financial troubles, an attorney working for Terry McAuliffe was blaming the federal government — warning federal officials that their failure to quickly approve applications for McAuliffe’s foreign investors had jeopardized the company’s finances and could bring down the U.S. government’s entire cash-for-visa program.
In a July 7, 2011, email to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas, attorney Dawn Lurie relayed complaints from officials at Gulf Coast Funds Management. The Virginia-based regional center was certified by USCIS in 2008 to raise foreign capital for GreenTech Automotive through the federal EB-5 cash-for-visas program.
“The regional center notified me earlier this week that they have received word of a possible lawsuit being filed against them for the delays associated with the I-526 petitions,” wrote Lurie, then an attorney with the law firm of Greenberg Traurig.
I-526s are applications made by foreign nationals who invest $500,000 in a U.S. company in exchange for U.S. residency and a green card. The funds are held in escrow pending USCIS approval.
Lurie’s email was included in documents obtained by Watchdog.org.
“I had not wanted to bother you with the concerns but feel the sense of urgency has escalated and requires your attention. Today, (GCFM) received word that investors are requesting refunds of their funds,” Lurie informed Mayorkas.
She went on to quote from officials at GCFM’s offices in China, where investors were being recruited as part of a capital campaign for McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive:
“Because of the slow issuance of the I-526s, we are facing many unhappy agents. … We are facing extreme pressure fr(om) agents and clients. We ran out of excuses already.
“I am afraid if the I-526 situation cannot ratify in the very near future, clients will WD (withdraw) fr(om) the program.”
“The framework of the entire EB-5 program could be threatened if there is a report of unrest combined with legal action taken against the center and the GTA project,” Lurie concluded.
Mayorkas, the top official at USCIS, responded within 23 minutes, writing, “Dawn, thank you for your email, which you and I discussed by telephone. I will follow up. Ali.”
USCIS would not say what actions, if any, the director took.
Lurie told Watchdog last week that she could not comment on the situation, since she left Greenberg Traurig.
“EB-5 is great program,” she said, “but I can’t talk about this one.”
Laura Rice, who chairs the immigration section at Greenberg Traurig’s Tyson’s Corner office, did not respond to an interview request.
GreenTech announced April 5 that McAuliffe, a Democrat running for governor of Virginia, had resigned as company chairman on Dec. 1, 2012.
The USCIS documents obtained by Watchdog reveal that McAuliffe went over Mayorkas’ head to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. In a Dec. 15, 2010, letter, McAuliffe advised Napolitano that “USCIS should … expedite adjudications of all EB-5 petitions for (GTA) investors.…”
More recently, GCFM general counsel Simone Williams emailed Mayorkas and USCIS deputy Don Neufeld on Jan. 23, declaring, “Undue delay by USCIS … has jeopardized our marketing efforts, as prospective investors are reluctant to invest in GTA.…”
Neither GTA nor Gulf Coast officials responded to Watchdog’s requests for comment.
GreenTech sued Watchdog in April for $85 million, claiming that articles appearing on April 1 and April 3 defamed the company and damaged its relations with investors.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
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