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SDRC-EB-5 Supporting Players: Berez, Patel, Sveen

The main players so far in South Dakota's GOED/SDRC/EB-5 scandal are Richard Benda, whose untimely and strangely unexplained death seems to have popped the boil of South Dakota corruption surrounding the EB-5 program, and Joop Bollen, director of the private company that spun off from a more scrutinizable state agency to manage all that EB-5 money. Benda is dead; Bollen is Dutch—both are thus easily fall-guyable. The man who authorized them to do their EB-5 work, then-Governor now Senate candidate Marion Michael Rounds, will use all of his money and friends to make us forget that he was the captain of the ship Benda and Bollen navigated into the murky EB-5 waters.

But there are other players whose names haven't surfaced yet in the press's growing coverage of this sprawling story, players who have kept a low profile but who may figure prominently in whatever comes of the federal investigation into SDRC Inc., Northern Beef Packers, and our state economic development program.

Maurice Berez, promoting South Dakota's EB-5 program in Zhuhai, China, August 20, 2010. Photo from
Maurice Berez, promoting South Dakota's EB-5 program in Zhuhai, China, August 20, 2010. Photo from

Maurice "Morrie" Berez was the United States Customs and Immigration Service's chief adjudications official for the EB-5 program. Michelle Malkin mentioned him in one of her posts, in which she repeats her charges that EB-5 is rife with corruption. (Michelle Malkin—yeesh! Conservatives! Why are you not jumping all over the South Dakota EB-5 story?)

Berez was the contact man for South Dakota and Bollen as they sought to expand the EB-5 program from dairies in several South Dakota counties to utilities, factories, and gambling and entertainment projects almost anywhere in the state... and his initials and official stamp appear on the official June 25, 2008, approval of our EB-5 expansion.

Shortly thereafter Berez retired from USCIS and went to work as an executive for SDRC Inc., the company formed to handle South Dakota's EB-5 recruitment and investment. He toured China with Bollen to recruit Chinese immigrant investors for South Dakota projects. Berez appears to have left SDRC early this year.

Pyush Patel of 128 Stillwater Trace, Griffin, Georgia, appears to have taken Berez's place alongside Bollen at SDRC. He appears to be a partner with Bollen on at least two other mysterious corporations, one of which, JOPY Inc., he and Bollen formed in 2005. Pyush owns gas stations in Georgia, at least one of which got in trouble with local authorities several years ago for underage alcohol sales. How he got connected with South Dakota is anyone's guess.

Jeffrey T. Sveen, lawyer, Aberdeen, South Dakota
Jeffrey T. Sveen, lawyer, Aberdeen, South Dakota

Jeffrey T. Sveen is a well-connected Aberdeen lawyer at Siegel Barnett & Schutz LLP. His law firm is involved in the bankruptcy proceedings for Northern Beef Packers and was involved in the legal fracas around Richard Millner's Veblen dairies, two of the biggest South Dakota recipients of EB-5 money. Sveen is also board chairman of Dakota Provisions, the Huron turkey plant that has been kept afloat by EB-5 money.

Sveen's chairmanship of the turkey plant is an outgrowth of a unique locus of power he occupies. The turkey plant is nominally owned and controlled by South Dakota Hutterites. Sveen is the go-to lawyer for over 50 South Dakota Hutterite colonies. That familiarity with the colonies puts Sveen in a position to wield political influence among a group known for voting in bloc for the candidates their head men choose. One Hutterite faction sued Sveen and his legal colleagues Rodrick Tobin and Harvey Jewett for racketeering last year, but federal Judge Lawrence Piersol dismissed that suit this August.

Berez, Patel, and Sveen have all played important roles in South Dakota's use of EB-5 visa funds for economic development projects. If federal investigators have Joop Bollen and Richard Benda under scrutiny, they almost have to be talking to Berez, Patel, and Sveen.


  1. Robin Page 2013.11.06

    So where in all of this do you think Mike Rounds may have profited? (Insurance, real estate, campaign contributions? Are any of the EB-5 funds being passed through to a PAC ?) I thought it was curious that Governor Daugaard and some of the SD elite took an "economic development" tour to China recently. Other states and countries are busy courting African nations, whose untapped resources are already being exploited by countries like China. Hopefully the full truth of the EB-5 corruption will come out!

  2. owen reitzel 2013.11.06

    Many, many questions and Rounds has a lot to answer for. Playing dumb won't cut it.
    Keep up the good work Cory

  3. Nick Nemec 2013.11.06

    What does it mean when someone "is Dutch"? My wife is Dutch as is her entire family and I've never heard the term used like this before.

  4. Rorschach 2013.11.06

    I didn't take the "Dutch" comment as a slur, Nick. I think Cory's just saying it's likely that the politicians involved will blame dead guy and the foreign guy with the accent for any shenanigans. The Netherlands makes for a nice vacation destination by the way. I've been there (and could pass a UA upon my return).

  5. Nick Nemec 2013.11.06

    OK that makes some sense, I didn't realize Joop Bollen was actually from the Neatherlands. I thought it was some sort of slang term I wasn't aware of.

  6. Nick Nemec 2013.11.06

    sdakota, thanks for the link. I'm all the more curious how Joop Bollen got an exclusive, no bid, sweetheart, skim lots of fees off the top, contract from the State of South Dakota. How do you get a deal like that? Do you have some special talent that no one else can replicate? Do you have friends in high places? Do you make lots of campaign contributions? Do you kickback money to people with the authority to authorize the contracts?

  7. Roger ELgersma 2013.11.06

    Making deals with foriegners means that you have to communicate well so there will be no misunderstandings.
    If you tell Chinese and Koreans that they can send people here with a job here they will be quite attentive. If it includes sending a lot of money they are businessmen. Take away that money and call it a bankruptcy and you have cheated someone in any language. If they do not understand our courts, or know they will lose there, and you end up dead, then you have met someone from a more violent society than we have.
    Use the death penalty more here and you will not have so many misunderstandings.

  8. sid 2013.11.06

    Key here is that Bollen and Sveen masterminded entire scam. Bollen borought financial expertise and Sveen used connections to get exclusive contract with GOED. Concern is that some who are attempting to influence this unfolding story have been possibly causing a subtle shift to the point that Bollen and Benda will be hung out as the only bad guys-everyone else was a "victim". If Feds defer prosecution to State authorities, real danger is that Bollen pleads for a relatively soft landing and, since there is no incentive such as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in place to get leniency for those who spill their guts to the authorities, then Bollen will never implicate anyone else who profited from this scheme. And if that is the case, Sveen and Rounds should go out and buy a lottery ticket...

  9. Roger ELgersma 2013.11.06

    As for the miscommunication thing, I heard an example from my brother that he learned while studying Dutch to help write the family tree book of six hundred years of Elgersma's.
    There was an old Dutch couple who came to this country to visit friends and relatives. One Friday evening after supper the hosts told the guests that since they did not have anything planned for the next day that they were welcome to 'sleep in' in the morning. The guests were horrified at the suggestion but as polite guests they said, we would rather not. In Dutch, 'sleeping in' is a term for dying in your sleep. Just a cultural difference in language. When dealing with foreigners, be sure you understand eachother.

  10. Deb McIntyre 2013.11.06

    I think maneuvering state money and resources in a shady way in full sight of the citizens goes back to Pettigrew. More recently, the sale of the state-owned cement plant in 2003 was a highly visible "look what we can do without telling the details". We sold to a company from Mexico (Grupo Cementos Chihuahua). Now really, who made that connection? 2003 was the Janklow to Rounds period. Did anyone in the Governor's office ask questions or seek "the rest of the story"? I'll bet someone did and because of the Emperor no one squeeked. Even more recently, what about Ag United & our Dept. of Ag? Very few of us pushed back at their brokering of South Dakota rural communities for confined animal milking or feeding. Our ag secretarys have been willing partners in many deals, such as all the dairies along I-29 and Veblen. People from Korea, Netherlands, Sioux Center IA, and probably other silent "investors" have found our greed quite useful.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.07

    The cement plant deal was mindboggling corrupt! Janklow called a special session for legislators to approve his secret deal. Only a very few legislators were allowed to see portions of the contract, but all had to vote on it, and vote to approve. I don't recall what the actual vote totals were.

    This Republican stink started soon after Gov. Kneip. I don't know about corruption in the Mikkelsen administration, but I don't recall hearing any rumors of unethical activities.

    Huey Long would be jealous of SD Republican leadership.

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