Vermont businessman accused of fraud says he'll be cleared

MONTPELIER, Vt. – One of two businessmen accused in what the Securities and Exchange Commission calls a “massive eight-year fraud scheme” involving developments in Vermont says he’s confident he’ll be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak ski resort, and Ariel Quiros, a Miami businessman and owner of Jay Peak and Q Burke ski resorts, are accused in state and federal complaints of misusing in “Ponzi-like fashion” more than $200 million of about $400 million raised from foreign investors.

The court papers filed last week allege the pair misused money raised through the EB-5 visa program, which encourages foreigners to invest in U.S. projects that create jobs in exchange for a chance to earn permanent U.S. residency.

The SEC accuses Quiros of orchestrating and Stenger of facilitating an intricate web of transfers to disguise that most of the seven projects were either over budget or experiencing shortfalls. “These shortfalls were due in large part to Quiros pilfering tens of millions of dollars of investor money for his own use,” the SEC said.

Stenger said he had no knowledge of that.

“I trusted that all funds raised were being used correctly and legally,” Stenger told the Caledonian-Record ( ) on Wednesday.

“We had all funds for the project centralized out of Florida banks at the suggestion of Ariel Quiros to maximize banking capacity,” he said. “Something I agreed with. I didn’t think anything wrong was going on.”

Stenger said he is co-operating with authorities on the investigation.

A lawyer for Quiros on Wednesday declined to comment on the case.