Key Figure in Vermont’s EB-5 Scandal Gets 18 months in Jail

By David North on April 15, 2022

After years of public scrutiny, Bill Stenger, once president of the Jay Peak ski resort in far northern Vermont, was sentenced on April 14 to 18 months in jail for his part in that state’s extensive, multi-million-dollar EB-5 scandals.

Stenger’s long-time ally, Ariel Quiros, who was the dominant one of the duo, will probably get a stiffer sentence later this year for his part in the scandals. He pleaded guilty to three felony charges back in August 2020, all relating to the same set of actions. His sentencing was postponed to make sure that he cooperated, as he said he would, with the authorities.

Essentially, the government charged the two with engaging in a Ponzi-like scheme involving at least $80 million; the scheme worked smoothly for years under the negligent eyes of both the state government, which played the middleman role of an EB-5 regional center, and the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the program at a federal level.

Two key actors in bringing these scandals to an end were the Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought the original charges and managed to undo much of the financial damage, and VT Digger, a dogged alternative news site in the state, which followed the scandals carefully for many years.

The EB-5 program at that time required minimum half-million-dollar investments from aliens, who, in turn, were to be given a family-sized handful of green cards.

Personal Note. The only time I met Stenger was when we were both witnesses at the last public hearing the U.S. Senate had on this issue, back in 2011. He was invited by Sen. Pat Leahy (D -Vt.) and he testified in favor of the extension of the program; I was there thanks to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and was its critic. We sat side by side.

After the hearing, Leahy stopped by the witness table to thank us for our testimony. He grumbled at me for having an overly D.C.-focused approach on the matter and suggested that I should get out into the country more. He, along with Grassley, subsequently became the reformers who changed the program considerably for the better, as we reported last month.