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Bollen’s EB-5 Agency Handled Millions in Visa Funds, Lacked State Supervision

Rule #1 for any political scandal: follow the money. David Montgomery gives us an idea of how much money there is to follow in the EB-5 visa scandal facing South Dakota's state economic development program: millions of dollars in "closing" and "administrative" fees.

Millions of dollars in a complex financial scheme which Governor Marion Michael Rounds blindly turned over to one man, Joop Bollen. Millions over which the state hadn't exerted any tangible oversight since a 2008 Legislative interim review led by then-Senator Jason Gant (who knows a thing or two about corruption and incompetence). Millions that the Daugaard Administration finally woke up and took control of in August 2012.

Millions that for years Joop Bollen and economic development chief turned "loan" mastermind Richard Benda could repurpose to suit their desires and their friends' desires without much if any public attention.

Millions about which Joop Bollen is now remaining doggedly silent (much like Team Rounds blogger Pat Powers, whom this scandal has flummoxed into awkward silence filled with press releases).

The EB-5 scandal is not just some partisan hack job. It's not just Monopoly money. It is a boil of South Dakota's long-festering corruption coming to a head. We can only hope that our Governor and a majority of our Legislators have kept themselves honest enough that they can lance this boil, burn out every bit of crud and corruption, and pass real reforms during the upcoming Legislative session to run South Dakota like an honest state, not some good-old-boys' money laundry.

p.s.: Remember, we're still only the third most corrupt state. Third.

“I don't see anything morally wrong with it,” he said. “... What we're doing here is legal and it's federally approved. South Dakota is clean as a whistle.”

—Joop Bollen, in Emily Arthur-Richardt, "Green Cards for Sale: $500,000," Aberdeen American News, 2007.10.07


  1. Nick Nemec 2013.11.06

    Has any news outlet done a story on Joop Bollen? Who is he, Where did he grow up, where did he go to school, what are his credentials, why did he get a sweetheart, no bid, exclusive contract from the state of South Dakota?

    And, by the way, who killed Richard Benda?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.06

    "Who Killed Richard Benda?" Nick, you ask perhaps the single most important question in South Dakota that's not being asked right now. Dare we print those words? Dare we ask and talk about answers?

  3. Amy 2013.11.06

    Spot on. Terrifying, isn't it?

  4. Bree S. 2013.11.06

    Personally, I doubt suicide. First of all, why would someone go through the trouble of making their suicide look like a hunting accident? You hate yourself, hate the world, everything in your life is falling apart.. and you get dressed up like your hunting, bring a shotgun with you instead of a pistol, tramp off onto your family's land and then say to yourself, "How about a cavity shot? Everyone else does the head. Let's go out with a unique bang." No.

    So it could be a hunting accident, or it could be murder. Here's some possibilities, under the topic of murder.

    1. A case of mistaken identity. You're hunting on the land of a family member, and your neighbor's hate a member of your family who also hunts there. There has been a recent dispute involving shootings and court. Wrong time, wrong place.

    2. Whatever you've got to say to the Feds about the eb-5 financial misconduct, will implicate a bigger fish than you and you're making a deal. That person has you murdered to shut you up, trying to save their own butt.

    I would note that the death of Benda flushed news of the investigation out into the media in the middle of a Senate campaign. If it was me, I wouldn't want U.S. Marshals investigating the death of someone that used to work for me, I'd rather have him alive. If I was that fish, the snitch would have to have something on me that would send me to jail. I find that doubtful, so I would assume the bigger fish in the second scenario is in "middle management."

    Honestly, I think the first scenario more likely, if this wasn't actually a hunting accident.

  5. Nick Nemec 2013.11.06

    I agree Bree. No one does a gut shot for a suicide, they want to end it quickly, not sit there for as long as it takes to bleed out and have time to contemplate how stupid they were to attempt suicide with a gut shot.

    Where is the ballistics report? What type of weapon was used? Was it a rifle round or a pistol or a shotgun? If shotgun was there a spent shell in the chamber?

    The more days go by without a statement from authorities saying this is a suicide the more we should suspect that it is a murder.

  6. Nick Nemec 2013.11.06

    Extreme bad blood between Benda's brother-in-law and the neighbor over a horse shooting might be enough to push an unstable member of the neighbor's family over the line into murder.

  7. Lynn G. 2013.11.06

    Wouldn't it be extremely difficult to go pheasant hunting by yourself? I would think you would at least need one other at a bare minimum or definitely more hunters to flush out those birds especially with the historic low numbers this year unless he just wanted to get out outside by himself to clear his head and decompress and use hunting as an excuse to do it.

  8. Bree S. 2013.11.06

    Think it was the brother-in-law's brother involved in the horse shooting.

    My father is an avid hunter and he goes pheasant hunting by himself. He does have a few bird dogs though.

  9. Bree S. 2013.11.06

    I suppose I've overlooked scenario #3: somebody pissing off the Triad. Maybe Van-Damme will make a movie.

  10. bret clanton 2013.11.06

    The question I have is why isn't any major SD media outlets wanting to know how the investigation of the murder/suicide/accidental shooting is progressing?

  11. Bree S. 2013.11.06

    Oh wait, never mind, that falls under scenario #2. lol.

  12. Jerry 2013.11.06

    There is a lot of money involved here that seems to have vanished like a whisper in the wind. Maybe there was a meeting with someone scheduled there and it turned out bad. But it is very convenient for the powers to be to now pin the blame of this whole mess on the dead guy like the 9 million dollar man has done.

  13. Bree S. 2013.11.06

    I must say, the horse shooter is full of brilliant commentary.

  14. Rorschach 2013.11.06

    Selling visas is big money. I see a storyline for the replacement for "Breaking Bad."

  15. Rorschach 2013.11.06

    Let's see. Here's how the decision making process works at the Dakota War College:

    Hmmm. Should we cover the growing political scandal that everybody is talking about in SD - the one that has spawned both state and federal investigations and news reports statewide? The one in which a major player suffered an untimely and unexplained gunshot death? Or should we copy and paste some Republican's weekly press release blathering about what they failed to accomplish this week? We are the #1 political blog in SD!!!! And I am a journalist!!!! So we better just post the press release.

  16. Dave 2013.11.06

    Free Pat Powers!

  17. wal 2013.11.06

    Nick.......Joop supposedly came from Holland someplace as a high school exchange student, went to college in CA and never went home. I have tried to verify some of what he claims about himself but have not been succesful. I do know dating back a decade he has IMO been a human version of a manure spreader. This is just one of the articles that I have actually he says he was a rancher. I would have thought that someone would have done their DD on this guy.

  18. Bree S. 2013.11.06

    I know the plant settled with contractors owed millions for 10 cents on the dollar a few years ago. This was back when the plant had no mortgage.

  19. Nick Nemec 2013.11.06

    interested party, I'm just tossing out possibilities that Federal investigators will have to check into and eliminate during their investigation. They will also have to eliminate family members, disgruntled foreign investors, Joop Bollen, and whoever Joop might have paid off to get a sweetheart, no bid, exclusive contract from the State of South Dakota.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.07

    Bree, how does one get any contractor in South Dakota to settle for ten cents on the dollar of what they're owed?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.07

    I can understand why folks might regard a lot of the above conversation as baseless speculation and rumor-mongering. I can understand why folks might not approve of such conversation.

    But if such conversation is unhealthy, I'm having difficulty understanding why the state, if it has the information from the crime scene and autopsy that would quash that unhealthy conversation, would withhold that information. Suggestions, Pierre experts?

  22. Bree S. 2013.11.07

    I don't know why, but I know there was a handful of them in a lawsuit with the plant for several million. They were advised to force bankruptcy because the plant had no mortgage at the time and they were in first position. They decided to settle instead. Think they knew the plant was a worthless pile of capital they'd never be able to sell and get their money? Of course, the plant wasn't completed so that didn't help them any. It was nice of Rounds and the banking board to help out a project that had already screwed the contractors that built it out of millions though.

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