BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The Miami businessman accused of being the mastermind behind a massive fraud case involving foreign investors' money in Vermont developments is expected to plead guilty next week in a plea deal in which prosecutors are seeking a sentence of more than eight years in prison.
Ariel Quiros, the former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resorts in northern Vermont, has signed a plea agreement admitting a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and the concealment of material information, according to U.S. District Court records, the Caledonian Record reported.
Quiros pleaded not guilty in May 2019 to 12 felony charges, including seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false statements. He and three others were indicted over a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant in Newport using $200 million in foreign investors’ money through the EB-5 visa program that allows individuals to get a green card and permanent residency in the U.S. through investment.
Quiros, 64 of Key Biscayne, Fla. was scheduled on Friday to withdraw three not guilty pleas and admit his guilt during a hearing in federal court in Burlington. But the change of plea hearing was moved to next Friday.
Under the plea agreement, Quiros could serve up to eight years but the federal judge could sentence him to less. The agreement states that prosecutors will drop nine other pending charges and not seek any forfeitures if the court imposes a restitution order.
Both sides have agreed to recommend that Quiros be sentenced after two other defendants are sentenced, if convicted.
But lawyers for William Stenger, the former president of Jay Peak, who is charged in the case, have objected to a delay in Quiros' sentencing. David J. Williams and Brooks McArthur of Burlington said in their motion that government records indicate Quiros’ plan was to keep Stenger “in the dark about Mr. Quiros’ systematic looting of EB-5 investor funds from bank accounts under his exclusive control.” The records also show “how that plan was executed by Quiros and his closest associates in the United States and South Korea, and their repeated efforts to avoid oversight of the various EB-5 projects in the Northeast Kingdom,” they wrote.
The federal Securities and Exchange Commission also accused him and his associates in a Ponzi-like scheme involving foreign investors' money. As part of the SEC settlement, Quiros surrendered more than $80 million in real estate and other assets including the two ski resorts. The receiver plans to eventually sell Burke and Jay Peak.