PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Port St. Lucie, a disparate series of residential developments and strip malls, had little to boast beyond its proximity to a nuclear plant and its fame as the spring training home of the New York Mets. Then Lily Zhong came, plunked down $500,000 for vacant land and promised to finally build a real downtown.
But instead of building that downtown, federal authorities say Zhong hoodwinked officials as part of an elaborate scheme to defraud investors using a special visa program that allows wealthy foreigners to become permanent U.S. residents by financing job-creating projects.
In a civil complaint against her, the Securities and Exchange Commission says Zhong raised at least $8.5 million from Chinese investors through the U.S. EB-5 visa program and improperly used some of it on personal expenses such as luxury cars.
Through her lawyer, Zhong has denied the allegations. She's not charged with any crime.