Another oil and gas venture domino falls. The Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) released a press release on July 6, 2015 announcing charges brought against Luca International, a California based oil and gas company, and Bingqing Yang, the company’s CEO. The SEC charged Luca and Ms. Yang with running an alleged $68 million Ponzi scheme and affinity fraud against the Chinese-American community in California and elsewhere.
The SEC alleged that Ms. Yang knew the company was failing, but misrepresented the projected returns of the company as 20-30% annually. Ms. Yang allegedly also commingled funds and diverted $2.4 million through a separate offshore entity to purchase a home and pay for personal expenses.
Ms. Yang allegedly relied on two tactics: affinity fraud and Chinese citizens who sought to immigrate to the United States through the EB-5 visa program, which grant green cards for making certain investments in U.S. companies. Other Luca employees were also reported to be implicated in the fraud. Additionally, the SEC’s press release noted that in a separate administrative action, Wisteria Global and one Hiroshi Fujigami settled charges that they acted as brokers for the Luca entities and were to disgorge ill-gotten gains of more than $1.1 million.