Friday, May 13, 2016

An update on a story about rural development and immigration policy

More than three years ago, I wrote this post about a proposed ski resort in Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom," on the Canadian border.  The $865 million investment was funded in part by would-be immigrants who, by investing at least $500K in an American business (if the business is in a rural locale or one with high unemployment; otherwise it is $1 million), can gain permanent residency in the United States.

In any event, those held out as the heroic developers in the prior story, are depicted quite differently in this story, also by Katharine Q. Seelye.    She reports that the developers, William Stegner and Ariel Quiros, have been accused of the biggest fraud in both Vermont history and the history of the relevant immigration program:  EB-5.  The $350 million Stegner and Quiros raised from foreign investors (representing 74 different countries!)who got the EB-5 visas is said, according to the complaints by the SEC, to have "used a “Ponzi-like” scheme to divert $200 million intended for future projects into a dizzying swirl of fraudulent accounts set up to try to keep earlier projects afloat."

Not only have the two left the immigration status of their investors in doubt--and many of those investors are already in the United States...
they have left the promise of a revitalized Newport unfulfilled, having failed to rebuild the “renaissance” block on Main Street, the biotech firm and a hotel, marina and conference center.
Seelye also addresses the fact that Mr. Stenger was a local--and in a place as small as Newport, that suggests the lack of anonymity that marks rural communities:
The allegations against Mr. Stenger particularly stung people here because they had known him for decades as a friend and civic-minded neighbor. He was not accused of siphoning money for his personal use, but the S.E.C. said he “extremely recklessly ceded control of investor funds to Quiros” and “did almost nothing to manage investor money, even when confronted with red flags of Quiros’ misuse.”
 Stegner maintains that, in spite of the projects' failures, they have created--directly or indirectly--6500 of the promised 10,000 jobs for "rural Orleans County, the poorest in the state."

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