MONTPELIER, Vt. – 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 foreign investors through a special visa program to buy a ski resort and to pay for personal expenses including two luxury condominiums in New York City, the SEC said. Companies he owned 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 then-Jay Peak president William 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 number of jobs.
Quiros has agreed to give up ownership of the Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts and his stake in more than a dozen other 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.
Stenger, of Newport, Vermont, 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 or deny the complaint's allegations.
The SEC said it seeks to hold wrongdoers accountable and return as much money as possible to victims.
"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," said Eric Bustillo, director of the SEC's Miami regional office.
Quiros faces other claims from investors, Vermont and a federal receiver overseeing the ski resorts.
Gov. Phil Scott and state Attorney General T.J. Donovan thanked the SEC for its efforts in the case.
"There are positive outcomes from the SEC settlement, including that it will provide federal receiver Michael Goldberg with legal title to the Jay Peak Resort, Burke Mountain Resort and various other real properties previously acquired by defendant Ariel Quiros, allegedly, with investor money," they said in a statement. "Receiving legal title of the resort properties enables Mr. Goldberg to move forward with a sale to a permanent owner, which will be beneficial for the region."
But Scott, a Republican, and Donovan, a Democrat, said more must be done to seek justice for Vermont residents and the communities that have been harmed. They stressed that the state civil enforcement case continues against Quiros and Stenger.