Vermont ski resort owner reaches tentative deal in $200M fraud case

This April 18, 2016 photo shows Jay Peak Resort. Sweeping plans for development in an economically depressed area of northern Vermont brought the promise of jobs to a region that has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state. But new allegations that Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak ski resort, and his partner Ariel Quiros, owner of Jay Peak, misused more than $200 million in foreign investors' money “in Ponzi-like fashion” has brought some of the development to a halt and left state officials saying they’ve been betrayed. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
This April 18, 2016, photo shows Jay Peak ski resort in Vermont. –Lisa Rathke / AP

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The owner of the Jay Peak ski resort has reached a tentative settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a $200 million fraud case involving people from across the world who hoped their investments in the resort and other projects would lead to permanent U.S. residency.

The tentative settlement between Florida businessman Ariel Quiros and the SEC was mentioned in federal court documents filed in Miami, The Burlington Free Press reported Wednesday. The documents do not provide details of the settlement, which must be approved by the commissioners of the SEC.

In the court documents, SEC attorney Robert Levenson asked for 90 days in which to seek approval of the deal from the commissioners of the SEC.

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The commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, Michael Pieciak, said he couldn’t discuss the details of the proposed settlement. But he said it would involve financial penalties and disgorgement, which relates to the return of illegal profits.

Quiros and business partner Bill Stenger were accused of misusing more than $200 million raised from foreign investors who were participating in the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program to build projects at Jay Peak, at Burke Mountain and in Newport. Stenger settled his case with the SEC last year.

Quiros is believed to have pocketed more than $50 million, according to the SEC and civil complaints.

Federal prosecutors said in 2016 that a criminal investigation was underway, but no criminal charges have been filed. A number of civil lawsuits have been filed.

Quiros’ attorney had said he was interested in resolving the case against him.

Pieciak said the SEC and the state were not focused on criminal charges, the realm of the U.S. attorney’s office.

“Our main goal,” Pieciak said, “is to hold the defendants accountable from a financial perspective.”

Jay Peak, a four-season resort in northern Vermont near Canada, says it offers “the East’s best skiing and snowboarding.” It features a year-round indoor waterpark, an ice arena and championship golf course.

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com