The ex-wife of a former Chinese official was arrested Tuesday on charges that she and her former husband fraudulently obtained visas to enter the United States through the immigrant investor program and laundered money to purchase property in Washington state.
Shilan Zhao, 51, of Newcastle, and her ex-husband Jianjun Qiao, 51, are charged in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and international transport of stolen funds, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering. Additionally, Zhao is charged with one count of immigration fraud.
The charges stem from joint probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, aided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Investigators also acknowledge the assistance provided by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China.
The divorced couple’s scheme involved falsely portraying themselves as still married and lying about the source of Zhao’s foreign investment, which was required under the EB-5 immigrant investor program to obtain U.S. immigrant visas, according to the indictment. Zhao allegedly stated under oath on documents submitted to USCIS that she had an ownership interest in the companies providing the $500,000 minimum investment, which investigators later learned she did not.
The indictment also states the divorced couple purchased a residence in the Seattle suburb of Newcastle with laundered money related to fraudulent transactions from a municipal grain storehouse in Zhoukou City, Henan Province, China, where Qiao served as director from 1998 to 2011. Qiao and Zhao then had money transferred out of China, with approximately $500,000 being used to purchase the Newcastle property. The federal government is seeking the forfeiture of property obtained through the proceeds of the scheme.
Zhao appeared in Seattle federal court Tuesday where the indictment was unsealed. At the government’s request, Zhao was ordered detained and held without bond. She is scheduled to be back in court Friday in Seattle.