Government seeks 5-year sentence for ex-ski resort president

Apr 6, 2022, 2:10 PM | Updated: 2:19 pm

The federal government has requested a five-year sentence for a former Vermont ski resort executive accused in a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant using tens of millions of dollars in foreign investors’ money raised through a special visa program.

William Stenger, 73, the former president of the Jay Peak Ski Resort, is requesting a sentence of home confinement when he is sentenced next week, according to a court filing from his lawyers on Tuesday that says both Stenger and his wife have significant health problems.

Stenger and Miami businessman Ariel Quiros, the former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resorts, and two other men were indicted in 2019 over the failed plan to build the AnC Bio plant in Newport, Vermont, using millions raised through the EB-5 visa program that encourages foreigners to invest in U.S. projects that create jobs in exchange for a chance to earn permanent U.S. residency.

Stenger pleaded guilty last August to providing false documents. The government dropped nine fraud charges.

Government lawyers say Stenger “came up with the idea for the AnC Vermont EB-5 project” and championed it “despite evidence that it did not legitimately qualify as an EB-5 project,” according to their sentencing recommendation filed Monday. They say Stenger lied to investors, the Vermont Regional Center, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Securities and Exchange Commission about the revenue and job prospects and was responsible for raising over $80 million from investors “based on lies and deceit.”

They also accused Stenger of authorizing tens of millions of dollars in cost overruns on two earlier EB-5 projects at Jay Peak and authorizing the misuse of investor funds to pay those overruns.

“The criminal conduct committed by Stenger and his co-defendants caused more widespread harm than any criminal case in this district’s history,” assistant U.S. attorneys Paul Van de Graaf and Nicole Cate wrote.

Stenger’s lawyers say his primary motivation has always been to develop and improve the economy of the rural northeastern corner of Vermont, known as the Northeast Kingdom, and he thought the EB-5 program “presented an unparalleled opportunity to create good high-paying jobs,” according to court documents. They said Stenger received “very little money” for participating in the EB-5 matter, $20,000 compared to the millions Quiros and his advisor realized.

“Not an hour goes by that Mr. Stenger does not think about his mistakes or feel regret for his actions,” Brooks McArthur and David Williams wrote. “He feels he will never recover from the devastation and heartbreak he caused the EB-5 investors, the employees of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain, the Northeast Kingdom community, and his family.”

In 2016, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of Vermont alleged that Quiros and Stenger took part in a “massive eight-year fraudulent scheme.” The civil allegations involved misusing more than $200 million of about $400 million raised from foreign investors for various ski area developments through the EB-5 visa program “in Ponzi-like fashion.”

Quiros and Stenger settled civil charges with the SEC, with Quiros surrendering more than $80 million in assets, including the two resorts. Quiros has pleaded guilty to criminal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and the concealment of material information in the failed plant plan and is awaiting sentencing.

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Government seeks 5-year sentence for ex-ski resort president