Bill Stenger, once a key player in what turned out to be Vermont’s huge EB-5 scandals, has pleaded guilty on a federal charge and faces up to five years in prison.
Two other actors in the $200 million-or-so EB-5 debacle previously pleaded guilty and face, in one case, even more prison time. They are Ariel Quiros, who may be sentenced to as much as eight years in prison, and Bill Kelly, an adviser to Quiros, who may get as much as three years. Quiros had the gall, after pleading guilty, to ask for his passport back, on the grounds that he needed it for his international financial work. He did not get it.
As we have reported over the years, Quiros, apparently with Stenger’s help, misused scores of millions of investor’s money, which was supposed to rehabilitate the Jay Peak ski resort at the northern end of the state, to build a massive drug factory nearby and other projects. At one point, Quiros placed millions in a brokerage margin account. Following the intervention of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the appointment of Miami’s Michael Goldberg as receiver, much if not all of the missing money was recouped and matters set straight.
Stenger, once hailed by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce as the man of the year, was formerly strongly supported by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who has since changed his mind about the immigrant investor program. As a matter of fact, the only time that I met Stenger was during the last Senate hearing on extending the program — something that happened years ago. He was Leahy’s witness, and I was the only witness against continuing the program, having been recruited by the staff of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
More recently, the Senate failed to extend the authorization for the main part of the EB-5 program, the pooling of alien investments by regional councils, so that part of the program has been dead since June 30.
The program rewarded aliens placing substantial funds into projects identified but not guaranteed by the Department of Homeland Security. A family-sized set of green cards was provided to those who initially placed a minimum of $500,000 in those investments, a figure that grew to $900,000 during the Trump years, and has since been reduced by a civil servant sitting in for a federal district court judge to $500,000 again.