What you need to know about EB-5 in South Dakota

“EB-5” is a complex affair at the intersection of government, business, crime and politics in South Dakota. A former state cabinet secretary died by suicide while awaiting indictment last year, it’s spawned numerous bankruptcies, lawsuits, audits and investigations, and it’s currently dragging down Republican nominee Mike Rounds’ bid for the U.S. Senate.

Here’s a primer on what you need to know to understand EB-5:

The very basics

It’s a federal program where immigrants can earn green cards for investing $500,000 in U.S. projects. As governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds embraced it as an economic tool, but it’s come under increased criticism as a result of high-profile bankruptcies and investigations.

The people

RICHARD BENDA (profile): South Dakota Secretary of Tourism & State Development, 2006-2010. Promoted EB-5 visa investments, including through overseas travel. Signed deal to privatize the formerly state-run EB-5 program, then went to work for the private EB-5 manager after leaving office. Died from a gunshot wound in late October 2013 while facing a criminal indictment for allegedly misdirecting a state grant to pay his own salary.

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