A while back I wrote a column called "A Little Light Corruption" about how South Dakota looks like Mayberry and acts like Goodfellas. The body count is still only at seven (thank God), but the money is getting weirder by the minute.
For one thing, 35 Chinese investors are suing the State of South Dakota for $18,550,000, claiming they got ripped off in the EB-5 (green cards for a $500,000 investment) program.
And Joop Bollen (a Dutch foreign national), who somehow was allowed by our own then-Governor Mike Rounds (currently our US Senator) and our current Attorney General Marty Jackley, to privatize EB-5 and turn it over to himself via his own corporation (SDRC, Inc.) is now suing the State for defamation of character.
And our AG, instead of issuing warrants, is asking the court to freeze Joop's assets which are, in one bank account, around a million dollars.
NOTE: Remember, originally, AG Jackley determined that the only "misappropriated" funds from EB-5 was the $500,000 that Richard Benda supposedly stole before supposedly killing himself in a field. Apparently things have changed. Although Marty Jackley is keeping as quiet as a tomb.
|Joop Bollen and then-Governor,|
current SD Senator, Mike Rounds
SECOND NOTE: Mr. Bollen has, throughout, been treated with kid gloves. He's never even been subpoenaed. But the State of South Dakota has finally sued his corporation, SDRC, Inc... for documents. Like, before they're shredded.
THIRD NOTE: Despite the Chinese investor losses, and Mr. Bollen's interesting bank account, South Dakota is still officially missing $120 million dollars in EB-5 fees and investments. Where did it go? Well, the state deficit in the last year of Mike Rounds' governorship was $120 million, so it didn't go there...Repeat after me: "Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing, and life doesn't." Author Neil Gaiman.
Okay, on to GEAR UP! Because we can't have just one major scandal about disappearing federal grant dollars in our tiny state.
A whole lot of money (almost $3.5 million in 2011) went to a whole lot of people, except that almost none of it went to what the purpose of the grant was: to give scholarships and education to Native Americans. In fact, while 50-75% of all GEAR UP funds were supposed to be spent on scholarships according to the federal grant requirements, South Dakota requested (and apparently got) a waiver to spend NO money on scholarships, but to spend 100 percent of the grant on college preparedness and college readiness. And of course the best way to prepare Native American students for college was to hire endless consultants and directors of various sub-corporations. (Angela Kennecke investigation) The result is, $14 million dollars spent (somewhere), and 20 people went to college. As my blogger friend Cory says, wouldn't it have been cheaper just to give the kids scholarships? (dakotafreepress.com/2015/12/31/)
Some of you may remember from my last post on this that the Westerhuis' cell phones were cancelled the day after the arson / murder / suicides, and all the records were wiped, including who made a call and left a voice mail about 20 minutes before the fire. As it turns out, the Westerhuis cell phones were through the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative (MCEC, the hub corporation for GEAR UP money, and for which the deceased Westerhuises worked). And it was MCEC that cancelled the phones and had the records wiped. No explanation why they would do this before the ashes had even cooled on the ground...
And you may also remember that there was a missing safe, which apparently had legs like a dog and got up and trotted off because it hasn't been found yet.
From the "It can't get any weirder than this" files:
|Governor Dugaard and Secretary of Education Melody Schopp|
at the Interview
When KELO-TV investigative reporter Angela Kennecke asked for an interview with Secretary of Education Melody Schopp about GEAR UP and MCEC, she was told by the governor's office that she could only talk to Schopp with Governor Dugaard present. (see photo to the right) Still trying to figure out whose hand needed holding...
And the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative had a forensic audit of their books, and presented it to a public meeting of the MCEC board. Said the auditors: “We did not have access to financial records or other information from any other business or individuals.” (For example, any of the multiple organizations that the deceased Mr. Westerhuis set up.) And neither MCEC board members, nor the public, nor the media were allowed to ask any questions or even speak at the public meeting. (http://dakotafreepress.com/?s=audit)
Just another day in South Dakota, where federal grant money can disappear like magic.
Did I mention that 4 in every 10 dollars in South Dakota revenue come from the federal government? (10 States most dependent on Federal Government)
Repeat after me: "Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing, and life doesn't." Author Neil Gaiman.