Chinese EB-5 investors sue developer of Colorado resort over ‘rigged’ loan, & claim they didn’t understand paperwork

  • Posted on September 12, 2019 | Updated on December 18, 2019 | 5 min read

13 Chinese investors who put their money into the $375 million Solaris project in Vail claim they’ve been defrauded and are suing the developer, Peter Knobel, and his Colorado regional center. The investors say the loan was “rigged” so that they would never get their money back. They also contend that because of the language barrier, they never understood the terms of their contracts.

While the investors received their EB5 Green Cards, their capital was not repaid. Their argument is based on the claim that collateral for the 160 EB-5 investors provided for an $80 million loan to the regional center which then loaned the money to an entity controlled by the developer, Knobel. 

The loan for $80 million was secured by 19 Solaris condominiums that represented a value of less than $40 million. The lawsuit contends that, according to a valuation expert the plaintiffs hired, the loan was “grossly under collateralized” and actually needed $120 million in security. 

The investors also say that they could be paid back with either cash or property and that the developer chose to pay back their $80 million with 19 condominiums projected to be worth $4 million each. However, only one of the 19 condominiums were sold — to the Solaris Bella LLC — allowing only eight of the 160 investors to exit the deal — with just half the value of their investment once adjusted for inflation. 

The remaining 152 investors, the lawsuit says, are stuck in a “black hole” of an investment.

Investors didn’t understand contracts

Another point of contention in the lawsuit is about the Chinese investors not understanding the terms of their contracts. This the EB5 investors state, allowed the borrower to pick the collateral and walk away after offering just $40 million in collateral for an $80 million loan.

“I didn’t know they could just walk away,” said one investor. “Such a thing is unthinkable for a lender to allow. I could not fully understand the paperwork.”

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