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Regents, Please Publish the April 2014 Bollen Deposition

The South Dakota Board of Regents has been gathering evidence on the EB-5 scandal for over five years, ever since it discovered that the EB-5 coordinator who worked on the Northern State campus, Joop Bollen, concealed a lawsuit against the state connected to his January 2008 no-bid contract with himself. As shown by the collection of invoices from a California law firm handling the Darley v. SDIBI lawsuit and the resulting arbitration for the Regents, the Regents have a large collection of correspondence, legal pleadings, and depositions that illuminate what Bollen and his associates were doing, who in state government knew about it, and when they knew it.

Perhaps the single most illuminating document in the Regents' possession is the April 2014 deposition of Joop Bollen. According to an invoice submitted to the Regents by Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez on May 22, 2014, attorney Chaka Okadigbo spent 35 hours preparing for this deposition, then attended the interrogation of Bollen for 17.5 hours spread over three days, from April 16 to April 18 (two hours of homework for every hour in class—just like college!).

Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6546, submitted to South Dakota Board of Regents, 2014.05.22, excerpt, p. 2
Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6546, 2014.05.22, excerpt, p. 3
Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice submitted to South Dakota Board of Regents, 2014.05.22, excerpt, p. 5, showing travel expenses for Chaka Okadigbo
Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6546, 2014.05.22, excerpt, p. 5, showing travel expenses for Chaka Okadigbo

An invoice submitted March 27, 2014, shows that Okadigbo spent one full work day and part of another in February preparing for the Bollen deposition. At $300 per hour, plus $2,200 in travel expenses, the Regents spent over $20,000 preparing for this deposition.

It's not the price tag that makes the Bollen deposition transcript the most valuable legal document in South Dakota today. It's the fact that, as far as we know, the Regents are the only entity in South Dakota in possession of statements from Joop Bollen under oath about his management of South Dakota's EB-5 program.

It's possible Bollen didn't say much; just as he didn't want to tell the Regents about the Darley lawsuit in 2008, he expended great effort after he quit his state job to shield himself from Darley's ongoing litigation behind the façade of his private corporation. According to a May 21, 2012 invoice, the Regents were working on a legal strategy to secure Bollen's testimony.

Garcia Calderón Ruíz invoice #5446, 2012.05.21, excerpt. (Click to enlarge.)
Garcia Calderón Ruíz invoice #5446, 2012.05.21, excerpt. (Click to enlarge.)

Interestingly, in August 2013, the Regents appear to have worked to avoid a Bollen deposition. According to an invoice submitted by its California lawyers on September 26, 2013, Bollen was demanding indemnity and release from the Regents in August 2013. Attorney Okadigbo discussed this issue by correspondence with Bollen, Bollen's lawyer Jeff Sveen, and Regents' counsel James Shekleton.

Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6170, 2013.09.26, excerpt, p. 2

After further correspondence with Sveen about "antecedent conditions" to an interview, Okadigbo came to South Dakota and interviewed Bollen for four hours on August 9, 2013.

Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6170, 2013.09.26, excerpt, p. 2
Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6170, 2013.09.26, excerpt, p. 2

The Regents insist that they have made no deal with Bollen, but at the end of August 2013, Okadigbo prepared and filed opposition to Darley's application to depose Bollen.

Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6170, 2013.09.26, excerpt, p. 3
Garcia Hernández Sawhney & Bermudez, invoice #6170, 2013.09.26, excerpt, p. 3

The invoices do not make clear exactly what happened next, but it would appear the April 2014 deposition was part of Darley's discovery process. While the Regents may have had questions of their own about Bollen's activities, Okadigbo's attendance at Bollen's deposition may have been intended to keep as much information off the record as possible in anticipation of the Darley v. SDIBI arbitration that took place in California from April 28 through April 30, 2014.

Bollen and Okadigbo may have spent much of the April 16–18 Bollen deposition muttering "Fifth!" or "Objection!" or whatever other hurdles one can raise during a deposition. But 17.5 hours of questions from Darley, follow-up questions from the Regents, and responses and non-responses from Bollen would likely tell us much more than Wednesday's legislative readers theater did about who knew and did what when in South Dakota's EB-5 program.

Regents, even if you didn't want Bollen deposed, you have that deposition. Bollen's statements are of great public interest. Do us a great public service: help us understand the state's EB-5 program by releasing the April 16–18, 2014, deposition of Joop Bollen.


  1. lesliengland 2014.09.28

    have somebody go over to the courthouse and read and copy the file. .25 cents per page. depositions, double spaced 8.5x11 are expensive. the depo however will not likely be in the file. the parties own what they purchase from the transcriber, probably.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.28

    Right. And who paid for the Regents' copy of that deposition transcript? Taxpayers and students. I suggest that transcript is ours. The Regents should share it with us.

  3. Bill Fleming 2014.09.28

    Cory, as we have been told over and over again, SD's EB-5 thingy is actually "a federal program." I wonder if that means those BOR records can be obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. As we know EB-5 is a project of the Department of Homeland Security. Is it possible they have those records on file? Just thinking out loud over here.

  4. john tsitrian 2014.09.28

    Correction to above: Bernie told me side-channel that somebody else sent it, but thanked me for publishing it.

  5. jerry 2014.09.28

    Slaughterhouse EB-5, that one is very good john tsitrian and a very appropriate title for this scheme, kudos.

  6. Francis Schaffer 2014.09.28

    Who are the attorneys for Darley? Would they have information about Joop? If they own it can they share it? I don't know how the legal system works but from my experience I would say not so well and has little to do with truth.

  7. gail 2014.09.28

    Do the Regents serve the people of SD? Who elects them?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.28

    Francis, according to an April 2013 appeals court ruling, Darley's attorneys are Maxwell M. Blecher, Jennifer S. Elkayam and Majed Dakak from the California firm Blecher & Collins. They took the April 2014 deposition. They would definitely have the transcript. Whether it would help or harm or have no impact on their case is a good question.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.28

    Ah, Gail, the Regents are not elected. The Governor appoints them.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.28

    John! That letter is a big deal! Thanks for posting that! Bernie appears to be asking for the same thing I am.

    Now here's a question for Jack Warner and the Regents and all of you commenters: if the Regents can share the invoices that we've been studying this week, and if those invoices reveal matters related to pending litigation, is there any reason they cannot release the documents discussed in those invoices?

  11. Francis Schaffer 2014.09.29

    I am confused. Darley's attorneys were at the April 2014 Deposition too? Who is the attorney who billed the regents working for then, the regents or Joop? If the regents why would he have to visited with J. Seven then?

  12. larry kurtz 2014.09.29

    It's looking increasingly likely that Kevin Schieffer was named to the Regents post for delivering Larry Pressler to run as a carpetbagger in the US Senate race to blunt Rick Weiland's chances against a weak and corrupt candidate like Mike Rounds.

  13. Jane Smith 2014.09.30

    Joopster needs to be charged with embellment, stealing and fraud of state intellectual property for starters. Then he will start barking about all the members of the that club. People like him will not go down alone. Why all this tip toe around this guy?

  14. Jane Smith 2014.09.30

    By the way, did anyone notice that according to the SDBOR, Joopster had been at this from 1994, not 2004. That is potentially ten additional years of pocket change he started amassing. HELLO!

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.30

    Indeed, Jane: Joop was wheeling and dealing in some form for the BOR for 15 years. EB-5 didn't get rolling until 2004, and Bollen and friends don't appear to have realized the full cash-cow possibilities until the Darley deal and the priviatization scheme in 2007. Do we have any evidence of monkeyshines at SDIBI prior to EB-5?

    Charging Joop would be a great way to get him to turn state's witness against the big dogs... but it seems the folks who would charge him are exactly the folks who need him to keep quiet.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.30

    Francis, the way I understand it, the Darley attorneys conducted the April 2014 deposition. They wanted Joop's testimony for the record for the arbirtration coming up at the end of that month (and on which the arbitrator may rule before the election). I would think Sveen would have been there to represent Bollen... but I would love to know if Bollen was getting some free legal cover from the BOR attorney as well.

  17. Francis Schaffer 2014.09.30

    The BOR must have standing or interest in the arbitration which means The State of South Dakota still has skin in the game on Bollen's side.

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