As David Wren of the Post and Courier has reported: Five years ago, Mayor John Rhodes and Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, attended the U.S.-China Tourism Leadership Summit in Qingdao, China, to build relationships with that country’s tourism and government leaders. It’s one of more than a half-dozen trips the Myrtle Beach mayor has taken to that country since then, funded by his Chinese hosts and a combination of chamber money and tax dollars.
However, Mayor Rhodes told WBTW T.V. this past February 2, 2017, “All these trips I took to negotiate with them, they paid for me coming over there, they paid my way to come over and took care of all expenses so it wasn’t a real expense to the City of Myrtle Beach,” said Rhodes.
The truth is hard to know exactly because Dean, Rhodes, Liu, and the Chinese Realtor Jane Zheng who interpreted for Rhodes during his investment pitches to Chinese nationals, also worked hard to hide much of the arrangements. All have now gone silent on the matter. Chinese sources claim the Myrtle Beach Mayor personally encouraged hard-working Chinese nationals to invest into the Yiqian Funding, “Easy Richness” pyramid scheme.
One H.O.A. group familiar with local Chinese realtor, Jane Zheng, told MyrtleBeachSC.com that she is now hiding in Europe to avoid being extradited back to China. MyrtleBeachSC.com found Zheng online along with 5 other aliases she uses to conduct business. Zheng was not only Rhodes’ interpreter, but also the local, Myrtle Beach Keller Williams closing realtor on all the Founders Group International (FGI) transactions totaling about $100 million.
Lawyers for one owner of the FGI group located Liu earlier last week in Myrtle Beach and served legal papers from a 10% partner, Nick Dou, who claims Liu is now transferring monies from and encumbering assets of the 22 golf courses purchased by the Chinese group into his personal name. Horry County records show Liu has encumbered the golf courses for almost $100 million in supposed debt to himself. County records also show Liu has put none of his own personal money into FGI which acts as the purchasing operator of the golf courses.
Increments of from $10,000.00 to $1 million individual investments were made by hard-working Chinese citizens into Yiqian Funding, (English translation – “Easy Richness”)
It is now clear to most of those investors and, also, the Peoples Republic of China government that no one can expect a return on any monies invested.
The city of Myrtle Beach has spent tens of thousands of dollars into the Chinese market through advertisements. Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean told Taylor Herlong of WBTW news “that’s because we need the Chinese to come here. China is the fastest growing source of inbound travel from outside of North America. More Chinese travelers are coming than ever before and not only are more coming, they spend more money. In fact, the average Chinese visitor spends almost six times what the domestic visitor spends,” said Dean. Of the 15 million tourists that visit the Myrtle Beach area, fewer than one hundred Chinese tourists have visited since Dean made those remarks this past February 2017.
Defending his investment pitches during these Chinese visits, Rhodes said last September 6th, “I sure don’t see investors in America knocking at my door to do things,” Rhodes said. “There are areas of Myrtle Beach we need to redevelop, and we’re looking at who has the money.”
Both Rhodes and County Councilman Mark Lazarus met with Yiqian Funding investors on their 16 day visit to China in January 2016. Rhodes asked all Myrtle Beach media to keep the details of that visit quiet at the request of the Chinese government. Most all media, exept MyrtleBeachSC.com, Paul Gable of Grandstranddaily.com, and Alan Blondin of the Sun News, complied.
In an email sent to MyrtleBeachSC.com, Horry County Councilman Mark Lazarus stated, “I had nothing, nothing to do with Chinese investments.”
Paul Gable of GrandStrandDaily.com reported this week: Yiqian Funding (Easy Richness) raised 10 billion Yuan ($1.5 billion U.S. Dollars) from 60,000 investors over a six-year period. Estimates are that Yiqian Funding took $300 million out of the PRC for investment in the U.S.
Chinese U.S. investors include: Lily Xue from Nanjing, China, one of Liu’s co-investors and An Pan, who described herself as a shareholder and a supervisor in Yiqian Funding. Both attended Liu’s wedding at Pine Lakes in April 2015. U.S. Dignitaries who also attended include: Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes; Dan Gray, his son Myrtle Beach City Councilman Wayne Gray, state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach; Wrenzie Rice, wife of U.S. Rep. Tom Rice and prominent area Republican John Bonsignor.
MyrtleBeachSC.com has been attempting to reach both Xue and Pan to discover the exact language Rhodes and Zheng used to lure investors into putting their faith in Easy Richness. As of this article, we have not been able to reach either of them.
THE BIG LOSERS
Besides the obvious Chinese nationals who will lose over $1.5 billion in this ponzi scheme, the potential future losers could well be homeowners who own homes around Pine Lakes, Myrtle Beach National, Myrtlewood, or any of 22 area golf courses purchased by FGI.
Those close to FGI told MyrtleBeachSC.com that Liu moved another $300,000 from FGI into his personal account just this week.