AP

Ex-ski resort exec gets 18 months in failed visa plan case

Apr 14, 2022, 4:56 AM | Updated: 6:00 pm

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The first of four men accused in a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant in Vermont using tens of millions of dollars in foreign investors’ money raised through a special visa program was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in prison.

William Stenger, 73, the former president of the Jay Peak ski resort, also was sentenced to three years of supervisory release and ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution. He pleaded guilty last August to providing false documents. In exchange, nine fraud charges were dropped.

Stenger told the court he wished to apologize to his family, the employees of Jay Peak and Burke ski resorts, the state, the investors, and his community of Newport.

“I let you down,” he said, adding that he started out with the best intentions and “got lost along the way.”

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.

Rasha Mesharafa, who was from Egypt and invested $2 million, testified virtually Thursday that she had extensive communication with Stenger through email and became concerned about a lack of financial reports and delays with the AnC project. She said she went to Jay to meet with him and Stenger “lied straight to my face.”

“All of a sudden there is no money, no jobs, no project, absolutely nothing,” she said.

Mesharafa, who recently got her U.S. citizenship, said she “lived this nightmare for four years” and holds Stenger responsible.

Government lawyers say Stenger came up with the AnC Vermont EB-5 project idea, championed it, and lied to investors, the Vermont Regional Center, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Securities and Exchange Commission about its revenue and job prospects. They say Stenger was responsible for raising over $80 million from investors “based on lies and deceit,” according to a court filing.

The project was “a fraud from the beginning,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul van de Graaf, who said Stenger was “an excellent salesman.”

The federal receiver appointed to oversee the ski resorts and the EB-5 projects “provided partial restitution” to the investors but the investor group is still “out millions of dollars,” prosecutors said in their court filing.

Stenger’s lawyers said his primary motivation has been to develop and improve the economy of Vermont’s rural Northeast Kingdom and he saw the EB-5 program as a chance to create “good high-paying jobs,” according to court documents. They said he was not motivated by money like Quiros and Kelly were, and has cooperated with and helped the receiver who was appointed by the court to oversee the resorts and projects.

Federal prosecutors requested a five-year sentence for Stenger, the maximum under the plea deal, while Stenger’s lawyers asked for home confinement.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford said he considered Stenger’s age, health, family circumstances and financial responsibilities in taking care of his wife, who also has health issues, but said the impacts on the victims is clear.

“Mr. Stenger made this fraud possible” because of business reputation and his contacts, and gave it a credibility that in hindsight it never should have had, Crawford said.

Three years before the criminal indictment, 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 awaits sentencing. William Kelly, an advisor to Quiros, has pleaded guilty to two charges. A fourth man, Jong Weon (Alex) Choi, a businessman in South Korea, remains at large, according to the federal court.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jers...

Associated Press

3rd Republican presidential debate is set for Nov. 8 in Miami, with the strictest qualifications yet

The third Republican presidential debate will be held in Miami on Nov. 8, a day after several states hold off-year elections.

5 days ago

During the equinox, the Earth’s axis and its orbit line up so that both hemispheres get an equal ...

Associated Press

The fall equinox is here. What does that mean?

The equinox arrives on Saturday, marking the start of the fall season for the Northern Hemisphere. But what does that actually mean?

5 days ago

Ray Epps Ray Epps, an Arizona man who became the center of a conspiracy theory about Jan. 6, 2021, ...

Associated Press

Ray Epps, an Arizona man who supported Trump, pleads guilty to Capital riot charge

Ray Epps, the target of a conspiracy theory about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge.

7 days ago

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly declined in an interview aired Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, to ...

Associated Press

Trump refuses to say in a TV interview how he watched the Jan. 6 attack unfold at the US Capitol

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly declined in an interview aired Sunday to answer questions about whether he watched the Capitol riot.

10 days ago

This frame grab from video, provided by the Mexican government, shows Ovidio Guzman Lopez being det...

Associated Press

Mexico extradites son of ‘El Chapo,’ Ovidio Guzman Lopez to US

The son of notorious cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, Ovidio Guzman Lopez was extradited to the U.S. on Friday.

11 days ago

impeachments in US history...

Associated Press

A look at notable impeachments in US history, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted Saturday on during his impeachment trial. Here's a roundup of impeachments in U.S. history.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Home moving relocation in Arizona 2023...

BMS Moving

Tips for making your move in Arizona easier

If you're moving to a new home in Arizona, use this to-do list to alleviate some stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.

...

Mayo Clinic

Game on! Expert sports physicals focused on you

With tryouts quickly approaching, now is the time for parents to schedule physicals for their student-athlete. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires that all student-athletes must have a physical exam completed before participating in team practices or competition.

...

DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

Ex-ski resort exec gets 18 months in failed visa plan case