The operators of Jay Peak, a popular Vermont ski resort, have been charged with defrauding foreign investors out of millions of dollars raised through an immigrant visa program, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Thursday.
The SEC alleges that Ariel Quiros of Miami, William Stenger of Newport, Vt., and their companies raised more than $350 million from foreign investors through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. This program fast-tracks permanent visas for foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in a new project in the United States that creates at least 10 jobs.
According to the SEC, investor money was supposedly to go toward the development of ski resort facilities and a biomedical research facility in Vermont. But at least $200 million of the money they raised was used for other purposes, including $50 million that went to one of the operator’s personal expenses.
The SEC ordered an asset freeze against Jay Peak and related businesses. The commission’s case was unsealed Thursday in federal court in Miami, and the court appointed a receiver over the companies to prevent any further spending of investor assets.
The SEC alleges that Quiros, Stenger and their companies made false statements and omitted key information while raising the money. In Ponzi-like fashion, money from investors in later projects was misappropriated to fund deficits in earlier projects. According to the SEC’s complaint, Quiros improperly tapped investor funds for such things as the purchase of a luxury condominium, payment of his income and other taxes, and for the acquisition of an unrelated ski resort.
“The alleged fraud ran the gamut from false statements to deceptive financial transactions to outright theft,” says Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “As alleged in our complaint, the defendants diverted millions of EB-5 investor dollars to their own pockets, leaving little money for construction of the research facility investors were told would be built and thereby putting the investors’ funds and their immigration petitions in jeopardy.”
The SEC’s complaint charges Quiros, Stenger, Jay Peak and a company owned by Quiros called Q Resorts Inc., as well as seven limited partnerships and their general partner companies.