Spurred by moral outrage, Vermont gets freeze of $10M in Quiros' assets
The question of whether Vermont government leaders were complicit in the massive Jay Peak Resort fraud case was argued in court for the first time Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 in Vermont Superior Court in Hyde Park.
A Vermont court froze Ariel Quiros' remaining assets, both inside and outside the state, totaling some $10 million, according to the commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation.
"We got everything we wanted and then some," Michael Pieciak said on Monday. "The freeze is on U.S. properties, Vermont properties and even properties he owns out of the country in Colombia, Bimini and Puerto Rico."
Quiros' attorney, Melissa Visconti, said Tuesday she was in the process of deciding whether to appeal the decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, or move for reconsideration by Judge Mary Miles Teachout, who granted the freeze.
"Clearly we disagree with the decision," Visconti said. "The reasons will be laid out in papers we file, whichever way we decide to go. We plan to file soon."
The Department of Financial Regulation had been seeking the freeze as part of its civil lawsuit against Quiros, who together with his business partner Bill Stenger, was accused of orchestrating one of the largest frauds in the history of the federal EB-5 immigration program. Quiros and Stenger misappropriated about $200 million from foreign investors, with Quiros personally benefiting from $50 million, according to federal authorities.
Both men have settled with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, without admitting or denying the allegations.
Pieciak wanted to get the state freeze in place before a federal freeze is lifted, probably in several weeks. He said he didn't want to risk the possibility that Quiros would mortgage the properties to get cash.
EB-5 investors, who were promised a path to citizenship with their investment, are still owed hundreds of millions of dollars that will probably never be repaid, according to an affidavit from Michael Goldberg, the federal receiver who is in charge of Jay Peak Resort and other properties in the Northeast Kindgom that the SEC seized from Quiros.
"When you're talking about the hole that remains, $10 million is a drop in the bucket, but we're talking about economic justice and make sure Quiros doesn't benefit," Pieciak said. "There's a real basic fairness point there in terms of the moral outrage people have felt about this situation."
Asked whether Quiros might have other assets the state doesn't know about, Pieciak said Quiros "has sworn to what he has left, but he's also sworn to a lot of things that weren't true." The settlement with the SEC specifies that if any additional Quiros properties come to light "after the fact," they will be immediately turned over to the SEC.
Pieciak said the state will put a similar provision in place, but conceded that "at the end of the day we don't know for certain" whether Quiros has additional assets. Pieciak does know about $6 million Quiros sent to the defunct AnC Bio in South Korea.
One of the EB-5 projects pitched to investors by Quiros and Stenger was to build an AnC Bio facility in Newport that was to develop medical devices and offer specialized manufacturing space for rent. The project attracted 166 foreign investors who put up $500,000 each for a total of $83 million. Under the terms of the EB-5 program the investors would have been eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship once the project was completed, but it was never even begun.
As for the $6 million sent to AnC Bio, Pieciak said it would be hard to track down because "overseas transactions are a little bit of a black hole."
Whether the state's lawsuit against Quiros goes to a jury trial or reaches a settlement before trial, Pieciak said it's possible there will be continuing oversight of Quiros "to make sure he doesn't wait a few years to benefit from money he has hidden."
Pieciak also believes prison time should be in Quiros' future.
"This is something that broke the trust of many people and injured people financially and emotionally," Pieciak said. "I think federal jail time would be warranted."
- MICHAEL I. GOLDBERG vs The AM Wealth Management Group of Raymond James & Ariel Quiros & Joel Burstein
- State of Vermont vs Bill Stenger & Ariel Quiros
- UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION vs Ariel Quiros & Bill Stenger
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