Businessman in ski resort fraud case agrees to pay $81M

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Miami businessman accused of massive fraud involving foreign investors’ money in a Vermont ski area has agreed to pay back more than $81 million and give up ownership of two ski resorts, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday.

The proposed settlement with Ariel Quiros must be approved by a court.

Quiros was accused of misusing more than $50 million from more than 700 foreigner investors through a special visa program to buy a ski resort and to pay for personal expenses like two luxury condominiums in New York City, the SEC said. Companies he owned allegedly failed to contribute about $30 million in investor money toward construction of projects at Jay Peak resort, the SEC said. The settlement includes a $1 million penalty.

Quiros and Stenger were accused in 2016 of misusing more than $200 million raised from foreign investors through the federal EB-5 visa program, which can lead to permanent U.S. residency for those who finance projects that create a certain amount of jobs.

Quiros has agreed to give up ownership of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts and his stake in more than a dozen properties, including the two condos.

“We’re very pleased to be another step closer to resolving all of the claims against Mr. Quiros,” said Quiros’ attorney, Melissa Visconti.

His business associate at the time, William Stenger, of Newport, Vermont, the former president of Jay Peak, has agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty. He was not alleged to have personally profited from the fraud, the SEC said.

Quiros and Stenger did not admit to or deny the complaint’s allegations.

“In pursuing fraudulent actors, we seek not only to hold wrongdoers accountable, but also to return as much money as possible to victims,” said Eric Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami regional office. “This settlement achieves both objectives by stripping Quiros of the proceeds of his fraudulent scheme and requiring him to turn over valuable property for the benefit of harmed investors.”

Quiros faces other claims from investors, the state of Vermont, and the federal receiver overseeing the ski resorts.

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