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Benda, Bollen Saw Hyperion Refinery as EB-5 Prospect

In December, I speculated that Richard Benda and Joop Bollen had their eyes on Hyperion's proposed refinery in Elk Point as one of South Dakota's next great EB-5 visa investment projects. A document from the Governor's Office of Economic Development shows that I wasn't just speculating.

In January 2008, the South Dakota International Business Institute asked the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service to amend the state's regional center status to include projects beyond dairy operations into a variety of fields, including petroleum and coal products manufacturing. The request included this statement referring to Hyperion:

SDIBI Amend 2008 refinery clip1

The amendment request packet includes an attachment that makes the Hyperion–EB-5 connection explicit:

SDIBI Amend 2008 refinery clip NYT

That 2007 New York Times article announcing the Hyperion project makes clear EB-5 director Joop Bollen and GOED chief Richard Benda intended to help the Dallas entrepreneurs build their fantastic Elk Point refinery on cash from immigrants from China and other countries seeking to buy their green cards.


  1. Jim 2014.02.13

    To go along with first beef packing plant built in 30 years.

  2. Sid 2014.02.13

    This was a good example of scam artists meeting scam artists. First, the size of the refinery proposed (400,000 bbl/day) was so far detached from reality as to give a warning sign to anyone who has even a notion of what is involved in refinery operations. Second, where was the transportation infrastructure to transport the product in and out of the refinery? To get an idea of how far fetched is the idea of building a refinery of this size from scratch, one should travel to a refinery already operating and see the size of one which has an output of one-fourth what was proposed, as well as all the transportation infrastructure it takes to make it funciton (rail, pipeline, truck terminals). Finally, where was the labor going to be found to operate the thing. This is something which requires a skilled labor pool as well as a large labor pool.
    So, to think one could place such an operation into a place somewhere such as Elk Point is pure fantasy. Of course, what made it attractive to SDRC was the fact that it was, at least on paper, conservatively a billion dollar project which could have consumed 2000 Chinese suc* (oops) investors.

  3. Rick 2014.02.13

    What the hell happened to the FBI? Do we have a U.S. Department of Justice any more? I don't expect DCI and the state attorney general to do their jobs. They're patsies to the state GOP Central Committee. Nobody in Pierre is of any use to enforcing laws. The feds need to step up and do their jobs.

    So far, it's been one reporter, one blogger and one law office in Sioux Falls that seems to give a damn. My gut hunch is the hyjinks around Hyperion, which directly involved Mike Rounds, will dwarf the lawlessness involved in the Aberdeen beef plant.

  4. oldguy 2014.02.13

    Rick while I don't support the EB-5 program please show me the laws that were broken.

  5. G-Man 2014.02.13

    Now, this is what I appreciate Cory, for you to keep focus on the real issue facing your state: GOED/EB-5/Beef Plant scandals. Please keep investigating all involved in this mess instead of the meaningless Bosworth Campaign and her stupid cash that's not going to get her anywhere but in a debt court. Cory, I've been very critical over your hyper-focus on Bosworth lately because that's just what I believe. Keep uncovering what you can with EB-5 and the Beef Plant. The real crimes the involved tax payer money are there!

  6. oldguy 2014.02.13

    G-man what crimes do you think are there?

  7. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.13

    The roll out of Hyperion would have been identical to Northern Beef Packers and smacks of a Bosworth scam on a much larger scale.
    I can see the players, Benda, Bolin, lining up to collect their share of the investments before Hyperion ever got into operation.
    Even if the project was just on paper, it would not be surprising if somebody made a profit on the planning. Scam artist don't work for free at any level of their grand plan.

  8. Sid 2014.02.13

    Old Guy- Here are some of the crimes for which there appears to be probable cause: 1) Securities fraud-While none of the securities were required to be registered, it appears from various public records that material facts regarding these investments were concealed and/or misrepresented to the potential investors. 2) Payment of "fees" to unlicensed and unregistered brokers; 3) Bribery and extortion- It appears that Benda upped the amount of a State loan/grant to Northern Beef in the month before he left the Economic Development Office and while he was negotiating for the position as loan monitor; 4) Illegal lending operations- SDRC and its SDIF affiliates were in the sole business of investment banking and soliciting investors to lend money. However, they were never licensed by the State Banking Commission; 5) Also, let us not forget the likelihood of money laundering as most of the foregoing acts require some fooling around with the funds.

  9. G-Man 2014.02.13

    WR, I just saw that one and another couple on the Watertown Public Opinion and Sioux City Journal. This story just is not going away...drip...drip...drip...drip...drip...drip...drip...drip...drip

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.13

    The GOED audit finds Benda expensing $15K in cash for "translation services" for handwritten names on letterhead from a hotel in the Philippines. Oh my. See Political Smokeout ... (sorry! having trouble posting links!)

  11. grudznick 2014.02.13

    It seems odd that the GOED office would dish out big wads of cash to people to pay bills. Is it usual for governments to give employees a packet of $100 bills when they leave for a trip? That seems insaner than most.

  12. interested party 2014.02.13

    Socath, his eyes uncovered.

  13. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.02.13

    Sid, I thought that your 1 billion was conservative so I googled:

    This article says 8 billion.

    Also you mentioned the infrastructure involved. Something that everyone always "disremembers" is that there was also a coal fired power plant involved with this refinery. It had been approved in Kansas, but they wanted no part of the coal power plant.

    Remember MMR's monicker for the project to keep us all guessing? "gorilla"

  14. Sid 2014.02.13

    Lanny- I was being very conservative but chose the one billion figure for a reason. If the EB-5 investment had been one billion, since usually 3-5 visas are awarded (the investor plus family members) per investment, then such would have consumed the entire year's allotment (10,000) for EB-5 visas. In fact, the processing is already backed up a number of months due to the hitting of the ceiling already. So, this would have been virtually impossible to fund through the EB-5 process unless there was some very "creative" work done. Anyone who does the math would know that the EB-5 component would have been a very small portion of the project financing. In fact so small, that if the project had obtained the remainder of the necessary funding, then it could have likely proceeded regardless of the EB-5 component. Further, if the EB-5 funding was to be done as a "loan", it would have likely put a damper on the rest of the funding.
    But the big clue that this was not a real project was the 400,000 bbl/day capacity. If a company the size of Hyperion wants to really put a refinery project together, they would be proposing something on the order of 25,000 to 50,000 bbl/day as this is something which might be feasible. But the project as proposed would have been the sixth largest refinery in the United States! Not an undertaking likely for a small, independent oil company.
    So, knowing what I know about those in the oil business (J.R. Ewing was known to be fictional as he was far too nice and ethical to really be credible as a Texas Oilman), I imagine that SDRC, Bollen, and Co. met their match when they ran into the Hyperion Group who probably chose South Dakota (after things failed in Kansas) due to the State's lack of knowledge of the oil business. One can only imagine what would have happened if they had actually begun raising EB-5 funds for this never started project! (Or, maybe they did and that is what the SDIF LP Nos. 11-19 were to be utilized.)

  15. Jerry 2014.02.13

    Lets see now, it is February 2014 and we not only have an election coming up right quick like, with all the parties concerned in this EB-5 corruption, we also have a dead dude that we all cannot seem to find out what really happened to him. I am wondering when we may start to see some action by Brendan Johnson and the Justice Department on all of the intrigue.

  16. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.02.13

    Well Jerry, I called his office, as I said I would on one of CAH's articles this week. I spoke to an attorney in his office, Connie Larson. She said that she could not (or would not) release any information as to when they would or if they would before the June primary, which is what I had suggested to her was very important. It will be like everything else in SD, we will find out 2 or 3 or 10 years after the information will do us any good as to deciding how to vote in election.

  17. Jerry 2014.02.14

    Good News Lanny! It looks like not only Brendan Johnson, but the ole slick cat himself, Marty Jackley have been spotted working together. They just busted a small time hunting operation, woo woo. A couple hundred grand, yowsir. I guess in South Dakota if you want to stay safe from the law, just go for two hundred million or more and danger goes from you like water on a duck's back.

  18. al 2014.04.08

    I was on facebook,,,,I cant find hyperion on facebook anymore....they still have a office in sd?

  19. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.04.08

    I was down there in February. Their secretary/office manager does coffee with the locals who were in favor of Hyperion and still does their postal work. I don't know if she still has an office but the coffee fest which lasts much of the morning is at

    Cody's Homestead - Elk Point, SD - Restaurant | Facebook

    Cody's Homestead

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    1001 W Main St
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