A Seattle-area developer who was once a Tibetan Buddhist monk faces criminal fraud charges in federal court, after being accused of taking millions of dollars from Chinese investors seeking U.S. residency through the EB-5 visa program.
Lobsang Dargey, the CEO of development firm Path America, is set to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Wednesday, according to court documents.
The Employment Based Immigration: Fifth Preference offers green cards to foreign nationals who make major investments in commercial enterprises that create or preserve at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers. Applicants in the program must invest at least $1 million, or $500,000 in a rural area or an area with high unemployment.
Path America worked on several properties in Everett including the Everett Public Market and Chicago Title Building, and had projects planned for Kirkland and Seattle.
Dargey and Path America were sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2015, alleging that of the $125 million raised from Chinese investors, Dargey moved about $14 million into real estate projects unrelated to visa program, and diverted about $3 million for personal use, including the purchase of a $2.5 million Bellevue home and just over $200,000 withdrawn from casinos in Washington, California and Las Vegas.
Dargey’s alleged actions could jeopardize the immigration applications of the investors, according to the charging papers filed this week.
Dargey also faces a charge of concealing information from the United States government, which is also a felony. According to the Seattle Times, Dargey could face up to 10 years in prison.
Several business profiles of Dargey over the years tout his colorful personal story of transitioning from a Buddhist monk to a developer in Seattle’s real estate market.
Dargey immigrated to the United States in 1997 barely speaking English, and started his first company as a house painter, according to a 2014 profile in the Puget Sound Business Journal. He then took a sales job at Sprint, where would switch between wearing business suits and monks robes to work, according to a 2012 Seattle Times profile.
The Seattle Globalist: Tibetan monk-turned-developer accused of defrauding immigrants
The Daily Herald: Criminal charges filed against Potala Place developer Dargey