Sioux Falls, SD
The South Dakota agency that helps attract foreign investors to the state has caught the attention of the FBI.
A federal immigration spokesman confirms to KELOLAND News that the South Dakota Regional Center is under investigation.
The SDRC works with the federal EB-5 program in the state, which recruits foreign investors with the promise of eased immigration.
This news comes nearly a week after Governor Dennis Daugaard confirmed that federal and state investigations are underway into the state economic development office. The SDRC and economic development office worked to finance the now bankrupt Northern Beef Packers plant, which is also under investigation, but the SDRC's work goes beyond the beef plant.
The South Dakota Regional Center is located in Aberdeen in an industrial park north of the airport. It is headed up by Joop Bollen who worked closely with former South Dakota Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda. It was formed in 2008 to help the state development office recruit foreign investors for projects.
According to its website, the office worked on least two different EB-5 projects with the Northern Beef Packers plant, recruiting a total of 120 investors.
The SDRC also used EB-5 to recruit 120 investors for the Dakota Provisions turkey processing facility in Huron, as well as the Day County wind farm and the Buffalo Ridge II wind farm in Brookings and Deuel Counties.
EB-5 isn't just used for large industrial projects. The Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel, Casino and Events Center worked with the South Dakota Regional Center to recruit 65 different EB-5 investors to open the entertainment facility in 2011.
Investors typically put up $500,000 a piece to invest in such projects.
The state of South Dakota entered into the contract with the South Dakota Regional Center to promote the program in 2009, but terminated that contract in September.