NEWPORT, Vt. (AP) — Proceeds from a Vermont settlement with a former ski resort owner — who was accused of massive fraud involving foreign investors’ money in area developments — are being used to help the city of Newport recover from the failed projects, officials said.
“These grant programs will go a long way in supporting Newport’s recovery and long-term economic opportunities for people in the Northeast Kingdom,” Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday.
Under the 2018 settlement agreement with Miami businessman Ariel Quiros, his northeastern Vermont properties were awarded to the state, with the proceeds from their sales going toward promoting economic development, particularly in Newport, Scott and other officials said. The fund also includes money from the 2018 plea agreement with former Jay Peak President William Stenger, who agreed to pay the city $100,000 for economic development, officials said.
In 2019, Quiros, the former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resort, Stenger and Quiros’ advisor William Kelly were indicted criminally over a failed plan to build the biotechnology plant in Newport, using millions raised through the EB-5 program. The visa program encourages foreigners to invest in U.S. projects that create jobs in exchange for a chance to earn permanent U.S. residency.
Quiros, who was accused of being the mastermind behind the scheme, pleaded guilty last year to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and the concealment of material information. Nine other charges against him were dropped. Kelly pleaded guilty to two charges in June, with eight other charges dropped. Stenger pleaded guilty last month to providing false documents, with nine other fraud charges dropped.
The Newport Development Grant Program is a competitive grant with a minimum request of $50,000 for projects that align with city and regional plans and create jobs for people in Newport and surrounding areas, officials said. Properties and entities that can show that they have been impacted by the failed EB-5 projects will get increased consideration, officials said.
The Discover Newport Business Grant Program will award $5,000 to $20,000 grants and is intended to encourage businesses to expand or locate in Newport. Eligibility criteria, application guidelines and the submission form are available on the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development website.