The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is a federal program designed to create jobs and stimulate foreign capital investment in low-income regions while providing a path to citizenship for foreign investors.
The operators of Jay Peak, a ski resort in the Northeast Kingdom, purportedly planned to use this program to fuel major expansions and facility updates. While Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros and CEO Bill Stenger promised to bring money and jobs to the Northeast Kingdom, they instead engaged in an eight-year Ponzi-like securities fraud.
The two also fraudulently peddled the AnC Bio program, which was supposed to be a state-of-the-art laboratory capable of stem cell research and manufacturing artificial organs. In reality, the two never even obtained FDA approval for this project. The result was a “fraudulent scheme” involving the misuse of more than $200 million and Jay Peak’s eventual bankruptcy.
Instead of creating jobs and economic development in one of Vermont’s poorest areas, Quiros funneled the program’s money into personal tax payments, margin loans, and a luxury condominium—all unrelated to the EB-5 program.
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (“ACCD”) operated the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center that was charged with overseeing the Jay Peak projects. Nonetheless, the State provided little oversight to the program and ignored many warning signs. In fact, the State had been warned on numerous occasions about Jay Peak’s dubious financial practices yet took no action until after the SEC stepped in.
To uncover details about the State’s inadequate oversight of the EB-5 program, the Vermont Journalism Trust, operator of VTDigger.org, made a request in accordance with the Access to Public Records Law to the ACCD for former ACCD Secretary Lawrence Miller’s emails between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2014.
These documents will shed light on the full extent of the State’s knowledge and lack of oversight over the EB-5 program. Specifically, VTDigger anticipates these documents will shed light on why the State continued to endorse the solicitation of investors for Quiros and Stenger’s EB-5 projects in spite of the increasingly apparent discrepancies.
VTDigger seeks to continue this vigorous coverage of the EB-5 scandal with the records request before the Court today. The State denied access to these records under the PRA’s litigation exemption, 1 V.S.A. § 317(c)(14). In doing so, the State uses the litigation exemption contrary to the PRA’s letter and spirt and seeks to avoid public accountability for years to come.