The ex-wife of China’s third-most-wanted government official will forfeit an estimated $28 million in San Gabriel Valley property after pleading guilty this week to defrauding immigration officials as part of a scheme to escape to the U.S. with stolen Chinese public funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Shilan Zhao, 53, of Newcastle, Washington, falsely claimed she was still married to her ex-husband Jianjun Qiao, 53, during the application process for an EB-5 visa, a program that allows immigrant investors to obtain visas for themselves and family members in exchange for $500,000 or $1 million investments in U.S. enterprises.
Qiao is third on a list of 100 most-wanted corrupt officials created in 2015 as part of a Chinese crackdown on government corruption called “Operation Sky Net.”
Zhao and Qiao were once married, but they registered a divorce in China in 2001, according to court records.
Zhao also lied about the source of the money she was investing as part of the visa program, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office statement quoted by the Los Angeles Times. She claimed the money came from her ownership stakes in two flour companies, Shoukou Luwang Flour Co., and Huaiyang County Huihua Flour Co., but she had no involvement in either, according to court records.
Qiao, who is still at large, is the former director of the Zhoukou Municipal Grain Reserve, a Chinese government agency responsible for purchasing and selling grain in Henan province, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed in 2015 and quoted by the Times. Qiao made illicit deals with the Chinese government’s grain and used the embezzled proceeds to buy property in the U.S., the indictment said.
When Qiao and Zhao came to the U.S. in 2009, federal investigators said in remarks reported by The Times, they transferred about $4 million in embezzled funds from China to banks in the U.S. A federal grand jury indicted Zhao and Qiao in 2014 on charges of transporting stolen money and lying on their visa applications. Zhao was arrested in 2015 in Washington. Two Chinese law enforcement agencies assisted the U.S. investigation.
As part of the plea deal, Zhao will forfeit ownership of a home in Newcastle, a condo in Flushing, N.Y., and four properties in Monterey Park that include Hong Kong Supermarket, a Best Western Inn, an apartment complex on Chandler Avenue and the empty lot next to it.
The properties will be used to pay restitution and whatever monetary penalties a judge rules appropriate, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
–City News Service
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