OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Oakland businessman Thomas Henderson, 70, is accused of being the mastermind behind a $110 million immigration scam, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
He promised to create 2,000 jobs in Oakland through a visa program known as EB-5. It gives green cards to investors who contribute $500,000 dollars to a U.S. business that creates at least 10 full-time jobs.
In reality, the US Attorney’s Office says Henderson and two associates took money from 200 Asian investors to enrich themselves and pay for other business ventures, many of which failed.
The newly unsealed federal indictment says investors believed they were paying to fund businesses sponsored by Henderson’s San Francisco Regional Center. Its website advertises: “Safe investments to set your family on the path to American citizenship.”
“The disappointing thing is that they’re many Chinese, they wholeheartedly think that they are putting money and they are selling picture like ‘oh you can stay, getting a green card,'” said Chinese community activist Carl Chan.
Carl Chan is a well-known Chinese community activist in Oakland. He recalls attending an informational meeting with Henderson about 6 years ago.
“He actually came to our community and did talk to many potential investors and in fact many of us, including myself and many business people, we went to the presentation. It was very impressive.”
Chan did not invest in Henderson’s EB-5 programs.
According to the indictment, the scheme happened between 2011 and 2017. Henderson allegedly siphoned investor money to fund projects including “restaurants, a website marketing company, an athletic shoe company, a sausage company, and other ventures.”
He also bought the historic Tribune Tower in 2011, the former I.Magnin department store building on Broadway, and the Dufwin Building on 17th street.
Henderson was arrested in Oakland Tuesday and is facing charges of conspiracy and wire fraud. If convictied, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.