A court-appointed receiver says it’s difficult to know what happened to Path America investors’ money because the money trail leads to Dargey Development and other closely related entities he doesn’t control.
Path America’s finances and business affairs are so intertwined with other companies controlled by former CEO Lobsang Dargey that it’s impossible right now to know exactly where investors’ money went, a court-appointed receiver said Wednesday in his first report.
Nearly a month has passed since a federal judge appointed a receiver to run Everett-based Path America and stripped Dargey, 42, of Bellevue, of control of the firm that fueled his remarkable rise, leaving in limbo active real-estate projects in Seattle, Everett, Shoreline and Kirkland.
In a court filing, the receiver, Michael Grassmueck, concurred with federal regulators’ allegations that funds raised for the Potala Tower in Seattle and Farmer’s Market in Everett were diverted for purposes that had little to do with developing those projects, including personal loans to Dargey, commissions and purchases of unrelated properties.
About 250 Chinese nationals invested $500,000 each, plus a $45,000 administrative fee, in Path America’s projects to obtain U.S. permanent-residency visas, also known as green cards, through the federal EB-5 program.
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Of the $64 million in EB-5 funds received for the Potala Tower, over $30 million was paid to other Dargey companies, Grassmueck said. And of the $39 million in EB-5 funds raised for the Farmer’s Market, more than $15 million was transferred to other firms Dargey controls, he said.
“Substantial funds” were transferred to Dargey Development, Dargey Enterprises and other Dargey-controlled entities, but it’s impossible for now to know where those moneys ultimately went and if there are additional assets to be recovered for the receivership, Grassmueck said.
Only nine of more than 30 active Path America or Dargey-related companies are part of the receivership currently, he said.
For example, Dargey Development, which isn’t in receivership, provided management, bookkeeping and other services for Path America’s projects. Grassmueck said his work has been hampered because he “lacks sufficient access to certain records and key employees” of Dargey Development.
Path America has denied any wrongdoing, and lawyers for Dargey say he was only taking legitimate fees or borrowing money he intended to repay.
Even as the receiver pursues assets, he also is facing urgent decisions on Path America’s projects, especially the Potala Tower at 2116 Fourth Ave. in downtown Seattle. Construction workers have excavated the site for the parking garage and maintained the shoring under the premise the hotel-and-apartment tower will be completed.
PCL Construction Services, the tower’s general contractor, filed an emergency motion last week to protect its rights under a $128.5 million contract signed in February.
In his report, Grassmueck said the Potala Tower project’s lender, Voya, agreed to extend its $70 million loan commitment. The receiver also has hired land-use attorney Jack McCullough’s firm to deal with permitting issues, and Michigan-based Wieland Davco, a national construction firm, to review the project.
The Farmer’s Market project still requires up to $3 million to be completed, Grassmueck said, but only $233,144 of construction funds from Voya are left. Assuming the project can get additional funds from Voya or another source, it should be completed, he said.
Path America’s Potala projects in Shoreline and Kirkland are in earlier stages.
Grassmueck said he’s soliciting bids to demolish four abandoned structures on the Shoreline property and could ultimately sell it, along with the Kirkland property.
At least 20 Path America investors have asked for refunds, but many others are in limbo because their funds have been spent on projects and they’re already partly through the immigration process.
The receiver will meet with investors’ representatives Friday to discuss the best path forward.
“I’m concerned about the EB-5 investors and am doing everything I can to protect their position,” Grassmueck said Wednesday. Asked about the status of Dargey and his executive team, he replied: “As of now, Path America has no employees.”