Arcadia woman accused of targeting Chinese investors in $20-million real estate scam
An Arcadia woman used a Coachella Valley real estate project to swindle Chinese investors out of more than $20 million, according to a federal complaint.
Ruixue “Serena” Shi, 36, was arrested Friday by FBI agents and charged with one count of wire fraud.
An affidavit unsealed Friday alleges Shi wooed investors in a condominium and hotel complex with the promise that condo purchases would enable them to obtain U.S. visas under a program that encourages foreign investments in American businesses.
Shi, who was the owner of a China-based real estate development company and chief executive of a Beverly Hills-based company, is accused of fraudulently soliciting $21.6 million in investments from 2015 to 2018.
She transferred funds to personal accounts and spent $2.2 million on autos, clothes, meals and hotel stays in Beverly Hills, France, Thailand and China, according to the complaint.
Authorities say Shi used radio advertisements and WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, to solicit investments in Hyde Resorts and Residences Coachella Valley, a 207-unit luxury condominium and hotel complex with conference facilities, a pool, spa and fitness center.
The condos ranged in price from $400,000 to $700,000 and required a 40% down payment.
Shi told investors her company had purchased 47 acres for the development, had obtained necessary local approvals and started construction, according to the complaint. In fact, authorities say, she had 20 acres, no approvals and her real estate firm, Global House Buyer, never began construction.