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Curious Retraction: Jeff Sveen Not Joop Bollen’s Partner

Last updated on 2016.09.05

Four weeks ago, Denise Ross posted a stunning article in the Mitchell Daily Republic that put then-Governor Mike Rounds in the room in 2009 with key players in the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers/Epoch Star financing scheme. That statement called into question Rounds's claim that he and the state had no involvement in securing the $30-million Epoch Star loan for Rounds's favored but failing NBP project. Ross also learned from California financier David Kang that EB-5 czar Joop Bollen and lawyer pal James Park had "complete control" of NBP's finances and were wrecking NBP:

Financially it was an utter disaster. They didn't have any of the financial records organized. They didn't work with any of the lienholders [David Kang, quoted in Denise Ross, "Source: Bollen, Lawyer in Control of Northern Beef Operations, Finances," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.10.17].

Kang questioned Bollen's and Park's business acumen:

He describes Bollen and Park as, at best, inept.

"They were in over their heads. They didn't understand how to do development, construction projects, things of that nature. That's ultimately why they fell flat on their face," he said [Ross, 2014.10.17].

Evidently that article got Bollen's lawyer Jeff Sveen a little hot. He contacted the Mitchell Daily Republic to set the record straight... not about his beleaguered client, but about himself. You see, in the middle of her article, Ross mentioned this comment from Kang:

Richard Benda also was involved in the plant, Kang said, although not to the extent of Bollen and the Hanul law firm. He was working to promote the project but was not involved in day-to-day operations. Aberdeen attorney Jeff Sveen also was involved, Kang said, as "one of Joop's partners."

Sveen's signature appears on several documents related to Bollen's EB-5 company, SDRC Inc. Sveen is a partner in the Siegel, Barnett & Schutz law firm.

Northern Beef's CEO, David Palmer, and others were not allowed to make decisions or administer accounts, Kang said [Ross, 2014.10.17].

Four weeks later, late in Friday's news cycle, the Mitchell Daily Republic runs this correction:

In an Oct. 17 article that began on Page A1 relating to Joop Bollen and Northern Beef Packers, The Daily Republic quoted Los Angeles management consultant David Kang's statement that attorney Jeff Sveen of Aberdeen was "one of Joop's partners." Sveen has since advised The Daily Republic that he is not one of Joop's partners. Accordingly, The Daily Republic retracts its statement that Sveen was a partner of Joop Bollen ["Correction," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.11.14].

Jeffrey T. Sveen, lawyer, Aberdeen, South Dakota
Jeffrey T. Sveen, not Joop Bollen's partner

Role-play time! Pretend you are Joop Bollen's lawyer on October 17, 2014. You check your voicemail or your e-mail and you see Denise Ross was trying to get a hold of you (Denise Ross is a pretty good journalist; she'd have sought comment from Sveen for her story, wouldn't've she?). You click your Mitchell Daily Republic bookmark, and there's David Kang talking smack about your client.

Now remember, Joop is more than a client; he's a pal. He helped you swing $55 million in EB-5 money for your turkey plant in Huron in 2009. What do you do for a pal like that?

You call Ross right back. Denise! Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I see you've gone ahead and published. Do you have time for me to set a few things straight?

You tell Denise that Joop is a righteous dude with lots of good business sense. Look how he's been able to parlay his low-income Aberdeen rentals into vast personal wealth capable of collecting and donating Egyptian antiquities! You tell Denise she ought to publish that side of the story ASAP to counter Kang's criticism. And Denise Ross, good journalist that she is, surely hustles to put your story into print to round out the initial Kang story. The Kang article appears on a Friday; I bet by end of business Monday, we have your side of the story in print, and the bloggers are all like, Oh, that mainstream media, jumping to conclusions! Jeff Sveen sure set Denise Ross straight! Now where can I get a mummy mask....

But what really happens? Jeff Sveen gets hold of the paper and says, Partner? Don't go calling me Joop Bollen's partner! Somebody—maybe the paper, maybe Jeff Sveen—waits four weeks to get the counter-claim out. Four weeks? It doesn't take four weeks to say, "I'm not Joop Bollen's partner." Four weeks is more like the time one would spend haggling with lawyers about defamation... if there were any defamation here... and if there is, calling a guy Joop Bollen's partner seems the least of it.

So the Mitchell Daily Republic publishes a damning article about Joop Bollen, and all Bollen's lawyer gets retracted is one statement about Bollen's lawyer. That's either bad lawyering or a signal that Ross nailed the truth in her story about Bollen, Park, and the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers/Epoch Star shenanigans and that Jeff Sveen just doesn't want his name dragged into the mess.


  1. leslie 2014.11.15

    sveen is likely a very good lawyer. very busy. most can't comprehend that kind of busy. deadlines. courts take priority. only essential calls returned.

    his dealings with rounds, daugaard, or covering up EB5 for election purposes is my only interest. he knows what is ethical.

  2. 96Tears 2014.11.15

    Very well stated Cory. Sveen's four-week failure to respond to a relatively minor point doesn't distract from the bombshell that Rounds lied about his involvement and Kang's observations that this was the greedy gang that can't shoot straight and lost millions of public money. I trust Denise lost no sleep over this.

  3. John Tsitrian 2014.11.15

    Why does MDR have to retract anything? It reads to me like the assertion about Sveen came from Kang, not MDR. Sveen's beef is with Kang, not MDR. The paper should merely report that Sveen denies what Kang said. There's no need for a retraction.

  4. leslie 2014.11.15

    libel/slander-over abundance of caution. journalists, newspapers get sued don't they? no sense poking a practicing, political lawyer.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    There's another odd thing, John. David Kang said what he said. It is truthful to report it. It is important to report that Jeff Sveen rejects that statement. We now have competing claims, proof that one person is either mistaken or lying.

    The big question for Jeff Sveen remains: Why, of all statements in the Ross article, are we haggling over this one mild statement of Sveen's involvement?

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    Leslie, I'll be watching for my cease-and-desist letter.

    But where's the libel here? Does saying "X is Y's partner" libel X?

  7. John Tsitrian 2014.11.15

    Understood, leslie, but ultimately I don't buy it. MDR should be willing to stand behind its reporter's notes. Clearly the statement comes from Kang, which MDR is reporting. The uncalled-for retraction undercuts Denise's work. On reflection, MDR should retract its retraction--there's no need to be intimidated when the paper itself isn't being challenged. Kang is.

  8. John Tsitrian 2014.11.15

    Cory, your q should be phrased "does reporting that Z is saying X is Y's partner constitute libel?" Stating and reporting are two different things. MDR reports, Z states.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    True—thanks, John!

    Perhaps related: Joop Bollen drops a lot of names in the 21 pages he sends to GOAC. He doesn't mention Jeff Sveen's name once.

  10. leslie 2014.11.15

    sveen likely wrote the reply, or heavily edited joop, his client. "partner" conotes a legal business relationship, not atty/client relationship. i.e. in cahoots, cavorting, that sorta thing

    i dont know l/s well enough to comment on xyz.

  11. Roger Cornelius 2014.11.15

    I agree with John T, there should be no need for Denise or MDR to retract, a clarification would have taken care of Sveen's concerns.
    On the other hand, I wonder if Denise wanted to get Kang on record as to whether or not Sveen was Bollen's business partner.

  12. Tim 2014.11.15

    I wonder if MDR got a call from republican headquarters? This one small retraction will be all the spin machine needs.

  13. Bill Fleming 2014.11.15

    Isn't this the law firm that threatened to sue the TV stations over ads that talked about the possible liability in the EB-5 related CA lawsuit?

  14. Rich 2014.11.15

    leslie, it does not matter that sveen is a good lawyer or that he's very busy. When one receives a call from a news reporter, one should call said reporter back immediately. a reporter is not calling to shoot the breeze, they have a job to do.

  15. wal 2014.11.15

    Sveen's DNA is all over the entire EB-5 scenario. At some point the TRUTH will come out. It may take 4 years but it will.

  16. grudznick 2014.11.15

    Just another part of the vast statewide conspiracy we'll never understand.

  17. jerry 2014.11.15

    I know it is difficult for you to understand Mr. Grudznick, but this state has crooks and liars in it at the highest levels as well as those levels in between. You probably have had taters and whatever with them or perhaps wanted to, and were not aware of their evil intent. But someday, yes someday, you will finally understand.

  18. grudznick 2014.11.15

    I have fewer days left than most, Mr. Jerry, but perhaps you are right. I stand by my statement that this is "just part of the vast statewide conspiracy that we'll never understand."

    Did you hear that the head libbie in the SD legislatures is going to be that fine young Mr. Sutton fellow that they wrote some songs about last year? And his main helper is a cowboy too, so at least there we be some hats on the left side of the hallway.

  19. larry kurtz 2014.11.15

    i sure would never buy a hooker from mr. sveen.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    Bill Fleming, I don't think Sveen's law firm has sent any letters to the TV stations yet over EB-5. That was all Woods Fuller on behalf of SDGOP, wasn't it? Or have I forgotten a letter?

  21. jerry 2014.11.15

    Mr. Sutton is a good feller. I think that they will continue to keep the pressure on this EB-5 until it finally is like a squeezed balloon and blows up. You are a stubborn sort of gentleman Mr. Grudznick and I would bet, a meager wager for sure, that you will indeed see this to the bitter end. I look forward to you finally acknowledging that your cowboy friend out there in the vastness of the prairie, Mr. Larry Rhoden, was not as pure as the driven snow on this either. Even though I know that the thought of this will make your breakfast a lot more bland than you would like, but it is what it is.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    We can't say for sure whether Ross called Sveen before publication, although knowing what a responsible reporter she is, it seems a good bet.

    A newspaper can be held liable for printing a false, malicious statement made by someone else. If David Kang's declaration that Sveen was "one of Joop's partners" was indeed false and malicious, then MDR could be punished in court for printing it. But note that for MDR to face any penalty, Sveen would have to prove both falsehood and malicious intent. I would love for Jeff Sveen to produce all of the corporate documents, contracts, receipts, etc. from SDRC Inc. and Bollen's other enterprises so we could all see for ourselves that Sveen's name is not on any of them and that he is indeed not one of Bollen's partners.

    But what of the malicious intent? Was Kang trying to malign Sveen with his statement? The only way we can interpret those words as malicious is to assume that being associated with Joop Bollen is harmful to one's reputation. To declare that calling Sveen one of Bollen's partners is defamatory would essentially defame Joop Bollen, right?

    Note that MDR's retraction does not acknowledge defaming anyone. It simply states that a contradictory view has been expressed and that MDR thus does not affirm the original claim. I'm still wondering why it took four weeks for that to happen.

  23. grudznick 2014.11.15

    jerry, you are saying that Mr. Rhoden was in on E-B5? That cannot be so. I don't believe it in the littlest.

  24. Bill Fleming 2014.11.15

    Yup, you're right, Cory. Different law firm. My mistake.

  25. jerry 2014.11.15

    I guess Mr. Grudznick, you will have to prove otherwise. He and many others know where the bodies are buried, so to speak. I know news like this at this time of the year, can be difficult for you. This started many years ago of course, when you first heard that Santa was really not real. So, just add this into your life of being disappointed with heroes and supposed extraordinary fellows.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    The error is understandable, Bil; aren't all these good old boys really part of the same organization?

  27. Francis Schaffer 2014.11.15

    Is it true that Joop Bollen retained a 1% ownership of the companies to which he loaned EB-5 funds?

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    Francis, it is true. Bollen told USCIS that SDRC Inc. would receive 1% ownership interest in each EB-5 project it managed... but I'm having a hard time finding the exact document that established that condition. Anyone remember which document laid that out?

  29. Francis Schaffer 2014.11.15

    Were any EB-5 funds loaned to Dakota Gobblers LLC in Huron, SD?

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.15

    The 2009 EB-5 loan went to Dakota Provisions, not Dakota Gobblers. Where are you headed with this thinking, Francis?

  31. Francis Schaffer 2014.11.15

    There is no business named Dakota Provisions on the Secretary of State website. This quote from the daily Plainsman

    Owned by a consortium of Hutterite colonies, the turkey plant is here to stay. The plan has been to locate a byproducts plant where it would have the smallest impact, Sveen said.

    “This is our company and we want to address concerns,” he said.

    So if Joop is a part owner and ifthis quote is accurate then Sveen sounds like an owner, what constitutes business partner?

  32. Jim 2014.11.16

    Depends how you define partner

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.16

    Dakota Provisions clearly exists. It's interesting that official name does not appear in the SOS corporate database. The SOS has filings for Dakota Turkey Growers, Dakota Gobblers, and Turkey Loading, all connected entitites.

    Sveen has most definitely been a partner in turkey plant. He's been cited in the press as chairman of the board at both businesses. Sveen named himself manager of Dakota Gobblers.

    That latter link, from Mercer, describes Sveen's involvement in SDRC Inc. thus: "In 2009, Sveen filed amended incorporation papers for SDRC. As for the 2009 contract between SDRC and GOED, and the amended version in 2010, Sveen was involved with those, too. / The contracts were worked out between Tim Engel, a private attorney in Pierre who has provided services for GOED for many years, and with Sveen representing SDRC. That is according to information that Engel provided Tuesday to a spokesman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard" [Bob Mercer, "How SD Became a Top Place for Foreign Money," Prairie Business, 2013.11.29].

    I suppose negotiating a contract can still be the purview of one's lawyer, not a partner in the business. Kang was not a party to those GOED–SDRC Inc. negotiations. I am curious what behavior Kang did witness to lead him to the conclusion that Sveen was Bollen's partner.

  34. Bill Fleming 2014.11.16

    If Bollen and Sveen both personally own %ages of the same LLC they are, by definition, partners. If instead, they are stockholders in corporations that own those %ages, then technically they are not partners. It's that weird 'corporations are people' thing. Corporations can exist even if only one person owns all the stock, but that corporation is a different 'person' than the stockholder who owns it. LLCs on the other hand have to have at least two 'partners.' And those partners can be either 'real people' or 'fake people' (aka 'corporations').

  35. Francis Schaffer 2014.11.16

    Cory, that is where I was going with my line of questions, yet I wanted others to provide the details. Sorry if that was inappropriate but we did get to the conclusion that Joop has partners

  36. Nick Nemec 2014.11.16

    Bill's on to something here, Sveen is using a legal fiction to say he isn't Bollen's "partner", and is is legally correct.

    It depends on what the definition of "is" is.

  37. Sid 2014.11.16

    One person who could easily answer all the questions raised and who has consistently been ignord throughout all of this is Maurice Berez. Mr. Berez is the former head of the EB-5 program for USCIS who retired from that post and immediately went to work for SDRC, Inc. He used to be featured prominently on the SDRC website. He disappeared almost two years ago and nobody has mentioned him as being interviewed in person or even by telephone concerning this. Because of the various news reports, including those in the chinese media, Mr. Berez was apparently intimately familiar enough with SDRC that he made trip(s) to China to recruit investors for SDRC. He could certainly help reveal who the SDRC principals were at various relevant times, who were the decision-makers, who went on these tips to China and possibly the side trips to the Phillipines, why monies were diverted from the NBP project to offshore bank accounts, and possibly how the various fees were applied which were charged. since he lives in Maryland, he is possibly beyond subpoena range (although there are legal experts who say that possibly a Maryland Court might, if asked, issue a subpoena and order his tesimony to be taken in Maryland) but short of that, perhaps a couple of plane tickets could be sprung for to send a couple of investigators to interview him in depth. If he were to claim the fifth, even that would be revealing.
    Regardless, the overlooking of a witness who cannot hide behind attorney client privilege and who was involved during the peak period of the shenanigans at SDRC is at best negligence and at worst, intentional malfeasance by those responsible for getting to the bottom of this.

  38. 96Tears 2014.11.16

    Back to the mystery of what happened in the MDR newsroom because we've drifted from a difference without a distinction to a distinction without a distinction. Knowing editors/publishers in South Dakota, it's probable they'd over-react and pound the panic button without thinking things out first. But this four-week delay is now even more mysterious. My guess is Sveen has a reason for requesting a declaration of error by the newspaper and it may come to light weeks or months from now.

  39. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.16

    Not inappropriate at all, Francis.

    Bill's question reminds me to turn to this striptease response offered by Bollen to GOAC last week. Question 63 asked Bollen to list "any other owners for each corporation where you have an ownership interest that managed EB-5 funds from 2008-present." Bollen replied, "This is private and confidential business information. However, I am willing to state there are no other owners who have ever been or currently are residents of South Dakota."

    If the information is confidential, why say anything about it? If Joop was working with his lawyer on these response, his lawyer surely was telling him not to say anything more than he needed to. Sveen may have seen a need in this response to reinforce his own insulation from SDRC Inc.

  40. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.16

    96, you're right: Sveen's caution on this issue and the four-week delay in "correcting" Mr. Kang is very curious. Either four weeks passed before Sveen noticed the article (unlikely); Sveen sat and cogitated over whether to send his correction (why wait?); or Sveen sent something more than a correction to MDR, and MDR broke the character 96 describes (unlikely?), resisted the panic button, and actually thought through its response.

    The EB-5/SDRC Inc scandal seems to be one unlikelihood piled on top of another.

  41. leslie 2014.11.16

    can u imagine the howl GOP is gonna raise if rounds gets nailed? now he has the entire resources of GOP, Kochs ect. to defend him from Dem. USA B.Johnson's office's prosecution, ironically. dreaming...

  42. 96Tears 2014.11.16

    Cory, striptease is the word. Of course, none of us know what is going on and being discussed in the federal investigation. I suspect more is revealed there that wasn't accessible via the AG and the GOAC (keeping within the stripper motif.)

  43. mike from iowa 2014.11.16

    Bill-Bollen had 14 individual spin-offs of which he was the only on listed for each,if memory serves.

  44. Bill Fleming 2014.11.16

    Here's how crazy it could get. Say that Nick and I decided to go into business together manufacturing and marketing his 'Pokin' Stix' toy product. He forms his corporation PokeStx, Inc. and is the majority stockholder, and as an incentive, he gives my newly formed corporation StixPoke, Inc. some preferred stock in trade for some in mine. Are we partners? No. Now say Nick wants to involve some other players in his manufacturing thing, so he forms an LLC, in which his corporation is the controlling owner with a 60% share and he gives grudznick and me each 20% personally? Grudznick and I are now officially partners, but technically Nick and I are not, even though I (through my corporation) own a piece of both of his companies, and he likewise owns some of mine.

    Sibby might try to tell you that Nick and Are partners, but he would be wrong. And Troy might tell us that no matter how we're organized, he's not going to give us any operating capital because he thinks we're nuts and will surely go broke? And Troy would probably be right! ...but Nick and I will never admit it.

  45. mike from iowa 2014.11.17

    Francis S-Bollen had SDIF LP 6 listed as general partner in early business deals ,except LP 6 was Joop Bollen.

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