Thursday, June 21, 2018

Another Budding EB-5 Scandal in California's San Gabriel Valley

An attorney retained me at the request of a skeptical investor in this EB-5 project sponsored by the America FX Regional Center, LLC, approved as an EB-5 regional center in 2016, well after it was understood that there was an ethical crisis in the EB-5 regional center industry. I was supplied with an initial Offering Memorandum, dated 6/1/16, and a restated Offering Memorandum dated 4/24/17 for the project "FX Boutix Duarte EB-5 Lender".

The goal of the offering was to develop a 318-room FX Boutix hotel across from the City of Hope, one of America’s top ten cancer research centers, in the middle-class Los Angeles suburb of Duarte, California. The total project floor and parking area was to be 445,000 square feet. So far, they have received more than $53 million from 96 Chinese investors, but have never received development approval for their oversized project, and the development application was withdrawn several weeks ago, according to City Planner Jason Golding.

The principals of this EB-5 regional center are Sherry Ho and Alvin Tzuen-chung Ho, former chairman of the Chinese hotel firm FX Hotels Group. He is also known as Hou Zunzhong, depending upon whether the name is pronounced in the Mandarin or Taiwanese dialect. The FX Hotels Group is a hotel corporation traded on the Taipei Stock Exchange, but with almost all its hotels based in the People’s Republic of China. This corporation has lost 95% of its share value since the beginning of 2014. As of today’s closing share price of 3.05 Taiwanese New Dollars (worth about 10 U.S. cents), this company’s market capitalization is equivalent to about 6.3 million U.S. dollars. One Asian stock analyst joked that FX’s only success was taking Taiwanese money and dumping it into bottomless pits in China.

Here’s the chart action in recent years, and consider that one U.S. dollar is approximately equal to 30 Taiwan New Dollars.

It seemed that the Mr. and Mrs. Ho misled investors in the America FX Regional Center by stating that Mr. Ho’s family owned the FX Hotels Group and that FX Hotels Group was interested in foreign development. Most of FX Hotels Group is owned by other Chinese hotel corporations such as Furama and Fu Lihua. Almost all FX hotels are in China.

The second Offering Memorandum for America FX Regional Center has no mention of Mr. Ho or any affiliation with the FX Hotels Group. This might be because Mr. Ho was fired in spectacular fashion at an FX shareholders’ meeting on 3/28/17, after another year of losses, which was video recorded and published on the China Times web site, including police called in to quell Mr. Ho.  He had not been notified in advance that he was going to be replaced on the spot by the leading shareholders.

Perhaps this news was behind Mr. Ho’s ouster:

“FX Hotels Group Inc. Auditor Raises 'Going Concern' Doubt
Mar 31 17
FX Hotels Group Inc. filed its Annual on Mar 31, 2017 for the period ending Dec 31, 2016. In this report its auditor, Deloitte and Touche LLP, gave an unqualified opinion expressing doubt that the company can continue as a going concern.”

Meanwhile, a new, restated Offering Memorandum for the America FX Regional Center was published less than a month after his ouster, and there is a disclaimer that investors should not expect FX Hotels Group to manage the property.

The most outrageous inaccuracy in the Offering Memorandum, stated on page 2, is the claim that the hotel would be built across the street from the City of Hope Medical Center, which includes a 217-room hospital with 40 extra rooms for visiting family members. Most patients are cancer patients.

The City of Hope is actually located 1.2 miles from the location of the hotel project, as measured in the Google Map below. The gold and red colors along the route indicate traffic bottlenecks due mainly to shoppers patronizing Wal-Mart and Home Depot in the immediate area.

Visiting investors must have instead been shown the closed Santa Teresita hospital across the street behind the discount retail center anchored by “Dollar Tree” and “Smart and Final” stores, shown in the top photo. Santa Teresita surrendered its surgical/acute care license in 2004, and the 5-story building in the background is composed of offices and vacant space, but there is also an adjacent 131-room senior care home.

The architect's drawing seem to have no compatibility with the L-shaped site, as seen below:

In terms of locational advantages, this project is also a miss because it is not located on the Gold Line light rail system serving the San Gabriel Valley, including a stop for the City of Hope. The nearest west stop on the Gold Line, Arcadia Station, includes several all-suite hotels such as Springhill Suites, Hilton Garden, 2 Extended Stay Americas, Residence Inn and Doubletree, all with a better restaurant selection than Duarte offers. Visiting families would not need to rent a car or deal with the Duarte traffic jams associated with Walmart and Home Depot. The subject hotel project, on the other hand, is not located on the light rail line.

So, there should be 96 Chinese investors asking, “Where’s our money?”

The actual City of Hope
The attorney writing the complaint for the cheated investors is Jing Wang, Esq., Kingswood Law, Diamond Bar, California. She also successfully litigated against the California Investment Immigration Fund, also previously reported on this blog.