More Chinese investors suing over Vail Solaris project
Second lawsuit mirrors previous suit with Chinese investors claiming they were bilked
VAIL — The number of Chinese investors suing over the Solaris project rose to 29 with a new lawsuit in federal court.
Sixteen more Chinese investors filed a federal lawsuit this week, as first reported by BusinessDen, saying they were bilked out of money they invested in the luxury Vail project. Their allegations are almost identical to a federal lawsuit filed by 13 Chinese nationals in August.
“Solaris’ response to the latest lawsuit is the same as with respect to the previous one: The lawsuit’s allegations of wrongdoing are legally and factually incorrect. We will respond vigorously to this meritless lawsuit,” Solaris officials said Thursday in an emailed statement.
In the new lawsuit, 16 Chinese investors accuse the Colorado Regional Center — one of 900 private entities operating with government approval to recruit foreign investors for U.S. projects — of recruiting 160 Chinese investors to sink $500,000 each, totaling $80 million, for the $375 million Solaris project.
In exchange, the Chinese investors say they received the EB-5 immigrant investment visas they were promised, but not the money they say they loaned the Colorado Regional Center, who then funneled it to Knobel.
“This scheme benefited all but the EB-5 investors,” the latest lawsuit says.
Litowitz has lots to say
Hubert Kuo of Ardent Law in Newport Beach, California, represents the 16 plaintiffs in this week’s lawsuit. Chicago-area attorney Douglas Litowitz represents the 13 plaintiffs in last month’s lawsuit.
Kuo did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Neither did James Kilroy who represents the Colorado Regional Center.
Litowitz, however, had lots to say.
His clients claim that because they are not native English speakers, they could not possibly understand the legal language in a 200-page contract written in English.
The Chinese investors thought they would earn 5% interest over five years for their half-million-dollar loans, and that 79 Solaris units secured those loans, Litowitz said. Their lawsuit alleges that after three years Knobel could give the Chinese investors 19 condos that they say are worth about $40 million on the open market — half the loan amount — and walk away.
The Solaris is on the front page of the Colorado Regional Center’s website.
Litowitz said he lived in China, speaks Mandarin Chinese and that his wife is from Taiwan. He says he found out about EB-5 visa projects when he was hired to promote one to Chinese investors.
“I came back to America and learned everything was a lie,” Litowitz said.
About EB-5 visas
The EB-5 visa program and was launched in 1990. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service issues 10,000 EB-5 visas each year, USCIS spokesperson Genevieve Billia said.
To get one, foreign nationals invest $500,000 a pop in American projects that are supposed to create at least 10 jobs in the U.S.
In exchange, the foreign investors can get green cards for themselves and their immediate families if they can meet certain standards for two years. After that they can request to become legal permanent U.S. residents, Billia said.
“These people just want to be Americans. They want their children to go to school here,” Litowitz said.
He said he now represents Chinese clients who have lost money in EB-5 deals.
A previous version of this story said Peter Knobel is a defendant in both lawsuits. He is named personally as a defendant in the first lawsuit, but not personally in the second.
Greg Sparhawk, along with partner Jim Comerford, have proposed a large development of fairly small homes for the north side of Minturn, near the town’s railroad yards. The partners are under contract with Union Pacific Railroad for the property, which is across Minturn Road — also known as County Road.