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home : community : community Wednesday, June 28, 2017

9/12/2016 12:02:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
What We Now Know About the "Hmong Tebchaws" Fraud Scam?

By Macy Yang

Seng Xiong
The Hmong community now knows there is little, if any, validity to the claim of Seng Xiong, 48, finding a country or "Hmong Tebchaws" (translated to Hmong Country) for the Hmong people. On March 24, Xiong was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport while boarding a flight to Thailand.

On June 15 the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota issued an indictment against Xiong, a Minnesota resident, with wire and mail fraud related to an affinity fraud scheme targeting Hmong elders. An affinity fraud is an investment scam against a certain group of people. Xiong allegedly promised Hmong elders a new homeland in exchange for their investments.

It is known, so far, that around November 2011, Xiong founded an organization called "International Fund for Hmong Development" which was formed as a California corporation. Xiong allegedly operated his organization using YouTube videos and a website called "Hmong Tebchaws" to solicit investors or "donors" as they were called. The mission of Hmong Tebchaws was to establish a country for Hmong people according to its website which has since been removed.

According to the U.S. Attorney's indictment, Xiong received a total of $1.3 million from Hmong elders who were promised a homeland somewhere in Southeast Asia. Between September 2, 2014 and September 22, 2015, approximately $1.1 million in cash was deposited to Xiong's account. An additional $77,725 was made from wire transfers and more than $129,000 in the form of checks.

These "founders," as Xiong called them, paid between $3,000 to $5,000 to get 10 acres, a house, free education and other benefits, plus a return on their investment according to the indictment. For those individuals who cannot afford these amounts, they could pay $20 per month or $240 per year to secure a place in the new Hmong country, but would not get a return on their initial investment.

The indictment also states that Xiong claimed to be working with the White House and the United Nations to secure land while he was operating his investment scheme.

Who are these victims of the Hmong Tebchaws scam? Hmong elders were the main target according to the indictment and a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's office. They allegedly paid money to Xiong on behalf of the Hmong Tebchaws organization and they all have one thing in common: they wanted a place to call home. "They were gullible," says Pa Thao, Executive Director of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association. "The hearts of the elders remain with the old country. They grew up there. America is not their first choice," Thao adds.

Eau Claire has a Hmong population of about 3,000 according to Thao. When Xiong's propaganda about a new Hmong country started surfacing throughout the community, the agency became aware and put out public announcements warning the elders according to Thao. "No one came forward for information," Thao says. "Now that Xiong has been arrested, there is fear in the community. Hmong elders are even more afraid to come forward now because they are afraid of being arrested."

"Mai," who only wants her first name printed for this interview, has a relative who paid a lot of money to the Hmong Tebchaws organization. As a result, the husband and wife are now anticipating divorce according to Mai.

Hmong Times also reached out to several individuals for this interview, but according to relatives we spoke to, those individuals are reluctant to speak to Hmong Times because they "fear being identified, arrested and prosecuted."

According to the U.S. Attorney's indictment there are at least two identified victims. No other individual has come forward since the arrest of Xiong according to Ben Petok at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

If you or someone you know may be a victim, you are encouraged to contact the St. Paul Police Department or the U.S. Secret Service to make a report. You can also send an email to the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force at mspectf@usss.dhs.gov.

The Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association has Hmong speaking staff on site to provide assistance.

If found guilty, Xiong faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the charges. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Xiong has retained a new attorney. The next court appearance is September 12, and trial date is scheduled for October 3, 2016.




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