A Maplewood man was charged in federal court Wednesday with having defrauded Hmong elders out of more than $1.3 million in a scheme that promised property and homes in a new Southeast Asian homeland.
Seng Xiong, 48, is facing one count each of wire and mail fraud for targeting elderly members of his community, according to the charges. Xiong was arrested March 24 at Los Angeles International Airport while trying to board a flight to Thailand.
The pitchman used aggressive marketing tactics presented online under the organizations “International Fund for Hmong Development” and “Hmong Tebchaws,” records show.
From at least September 2014 to March 2016, authorities believe Xiong used these companies to swindle investors out of thousands of dollars through false promises of reuniting them with Hmong friends and family in a country that does not yet exist.
Websites linked to the organizations claimed that Hmong Tebchaws was working with the White House and the United Nations to secure land for the new Hmong country. He also said a piece of land in Southeast Asia had already been set aside for the elderly investors, charges said.
Both accounts appear to be suspended.
According to the indictment, Xiong offered several investment options for his clients.
Those directed to deposit between $3,000 and $5,000 into a bank account held in Xiong’s name were promised 10 acres of land, a house, free health care, free education and government assistance for people age 65 and over. The “founders” option also guaranteed a return on that investment equal to a percentage of the new country’s income.
People who could not afford that option could pay $20 per month — or $240 a year — to secure a spot in the Hmong country with limited benefits and no return on their investment.
If you or someone you know could be a victim, contact the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.