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(Above left) Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP of The Carillon, a 60-story condominium/hotel tower that would have replaced George A. Tripp House (above right) at 42 East Superior Street, along with 44 and 46 East Superior Street.

Documents submitted by law firm representing Carillon Tower developer created false impression, says official, that $49.5 million would be returned to Chinese investors.

28-Mar-22 – A $50 million loan from a group of Bahrain-based investors, cited as collateral by the developer of a failed Superior Street skyscraper, was most likely non-existent and an act of fraud, according to a federal court official appointed by United States District Judge Charles P. Kocoras.

Attorneys for New York-based investor Jeffrey Laytin, a director of Symmetry Property Development, had claimed the Bahraini money would be used to pay back a group of Chinese investors.

More than a year ago, Kocoras appointed the official, designated a special master, to sort through paperwork submitted by Laytin and the law firm representing him, Greenberg Traurig, LLP. According to one of the attorneys representing the investors, what the special master uncovered was not simply messy paperwork but rather an elaborate fraud.

Douglas Litowitz

“The special master said that the supposed loan from the Middle East to pay off the Chinese investors was made up, fake, and that the lawyers were giving forged documents to the court,” said Douglas Litowitz (left), who along with attorney Glen Dunn is representing the Chinese investors.

The clients of Litowitz and Dunn were participating in the federal EB-5 program that provides foreign investors with a fast-track to permanent U.S. residency status – with little to no review or oversight of those providing the cash. Or as it turns out, what that foreign money is reportedly used for, and in whose hands it lands.

The EB-5 program has created numerous scandals that continue to make headlines, such as those in California, Florida, Hawaii, Washington, and Illinois. The courts move slowly in some of these cases, providing news long after the initial scandal was discovered, offering a view today of EB-5 scandals past.

Individually, the victims in the Chicago project had invested up to $550,000 for a total of nearly $50 million to fund construction of what would have been a condominium and hotel tower at the northeast corner of Wabash Avenue & Superior Street in River North.

The estimated $150 million project was expected to be completed in October 2017.

Had it been built, the project, known as Carillon Tower, would have replaced three 19th century Superior Street rowhouses. Citing neighborhood opposition, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly blocked the project from moving forward. The rowhouses are now included in the City of Chicago’s Near North Side Multiple Property Landmark District and cannot be demolished.

(Right) Jeffrey Laytin

Jeffrey Laytin

After spending years battling Laytin to have his clients’ money returned, Litowitz says he is especially disappointed by the conduct of Laytin’s attorneys.

“The Greenberg Traurig law firm submitted forged and fake documents to a federal court, and they did it knowingly and recklessly to create the false impression that their clients would return some of the $50 million they stole from my clients, who are the investors in the never-built project,” said Litowitz. “We are talking about criminal behavior, lying to a federal judge, interacting with persons on scam watches, and using offshore accounts with fake identities, and asserting the truth of documents that any idiot could see were phony.”

According to Litowitz, neither federal nor state law enforcement authorities seem to be interested in doing their own investigations into Laytin’s alleged financial skullduggery.

“Where is the U.S. Attorney, where is the FBI, where is the Illinois State Police? There are no consequences for massive theft when the same judges throw you in jail for stealing a $6 frozen pizza. I am mystified why judges tolerate this. But when you tell them the truth, they excoriate you with sanctimonious platitudes about professionalism so corny they would disgust even Pope Francis himself,” said a frustrated Litowitz.

Symmetry’s problems are not limited to Chicago. The company has also been involved in a failed 330-unit timeshare development on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. According to The Garden Island newspaper, SPD II Makaiwa Resort Development LLC, a company registered to Laytin, has defaulted on a $10 million loan and is being sued by the project’s financier, architect, landscape designer, two construction contractors, and a public relations firm hired to promote the development.

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