BURLINGTON, Vermont — The former owner of two Vermont ski resorts was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for his role in a failed plan to build a biotechnology factory using tens of millions of dollars in cash. foreign investors.
The conviction of Ariel Quiros, former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain, ends the biggest fraud case in Vermont history.
During the hearing, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford that Quiros, 65, kept for himself an estimated $30 million to $37 million that was earmarked for the construction of the biotechnology plant in Newport, near the Canadian border.
“This project was fiction from start to finish,” Crawford said during the sentencing hearing.
The financial scandal involving Quiros and two others rocked the state and its rural and economically depressed region called the Northeast Kingdom. A fourth man, a businessman in South Korea, remains at large.
Before being sentenced, Quiros apologized for his actions.
“I deeply regret being involved in this case,” Quiros said.
Prosecutors described Quiros, a Miami businessman who now lives in Puerto Rico, as a “wheel-dealer” who played a role in the larger scheme.
“The crimes could not have occurred without the toxic mix of strong personalities of these three men,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul van de Graaf and Nicole Cate wrote in their sentencing document.
Quiros, former Jay Peak chairman William Stenger and Quiros adviser William Kelly were indicted in 2019 over the failed AnC Bio plant construction project using millions of dollars raised through a visa program that encourages foreigners to invest in job-creating businesses in the United States. exchange for a chance to obtain permanent residence.
Quiros pleaded guilty in August 2020 to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and concealment of material information related to the AnC project. Other charges were dropped.
In a post-sentence press release, prosecutors said Quiros admitted that he and his co-conspirators misled AnC investors about material information, including how the investors’ money would be used and the timing of the job creation required for the project.
Stenger, of Newport, and Kelly, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were each sentenced this month to 18 months in prison, with Stenger ordered to pay $250,000 and Kelly to pay $8.3 million in restitution.
Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Quiros to less than a maximum of eight years under the plea deal, based on his cooperation and acceptance of responsibility. The defense had requested 18 months of home confinement, citing his cooperation, his military service and his wife’s health problems.
Prosecutors said the project aimed to raise $110 million from 220 investors to build and operate the biotech facility, according to records and court proceedings. About 170 investors invested at least $500,000 each for a total of about $85 million between 2012 and 2016, but the project was never built, prosecutors said.
Three years before Quiros and Stenger were indicted, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of Vermont alleged in 2016 that they participated in a “massive eight-year fraudulent scheme.” The civil allegations involved the misuse of more than $200 million of approximately $400 million raised from foreign investors for various ski area developments under the same “Ponzi-style” visa scheme.
Quiros and Stenger settled the civil charges with the SEC, with Quiros disposing of more than $80 million in assets, including the two stations.
Prosecutors wrote in their sentencing recommendation in the criminal case that Quiros relied on Kelly and Stenger to work out the details, with Stenger acting as the fundraiser and face of the biotech factory project, and Kelly carrying out his wishes and solving problems.
Quiros was more interested in profits than details and “perceived that these professionals had his back,” prosecutors wrote. “He wanted the gravy train to keep rolling, if possible,” they wrote.
Quiros’ attorney wrote that Quiros overwhelmingly demonstrated his contrition and desire to make amends, took full responsibility for his conduct, and “demonstrated substantial remorse.”
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