Quiros pleads guilty in Kingdom Con fraud case
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - The first guilty plea has come down in the Kingdom Con fraud case, the largest such case in Vermont's history. Our Dom Amato has more on what this means for the city of Newport, which undoubtedly was the community most impacted by the scheme.
Ariel Quiros' guilty plea won't help fill the massive hole in Newport but state leaders said Friday that money is available to work with.
"Certainly the plea is a good thing but it can't undo the harm that was inflicted on the Northeast Kingdom," Vt. Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said.
Just over six years ago this month, a promising plan was announced to help a struggling community.
"AnC Bio Vermont will be one of the most advanced biomedical research centers and manufacturing facilities," Ariel Quiros said in August 2011.
The 134,000-square-foot lab was said to develop adult stem cell therapies to treat incurable diseases and manufacture artificial organs.
The $100 million project planned to use the EB-5 program where foreign investors contribute at least a half a million dollars to a project in an area with high unemployment in exchange for a green card.
"This is a federal job creation program with one big difference-- not a cent of our tax dollars go there," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said in August 2011.
Leahy was a longtime supporter of the program and the state backed the project which also included a Kingdom-wide redevelopment plan that included area ski resorts.
But it all came crashing down in 2016.
"The fraud allegedly began on day one," then-Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, said in April 2016.
The Department of Financial Regulation conducted a 10-month investigation into investor funds after closer inspections of the projects. Pieciak says most of the money was funneled into Quiros' pocket.
"Largely to fund a lavish lifestyle," Pieciak said.
In the yearslong legal battle to follow in state and federal court, Ariel Quiros, the leader of the scheme, has now pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and concealment of material information. Nine other charges were dropped in the plea deal. Quiros faces up to 97 months or just over eight years in jail.
“We were happy to see that Mr. Quiros faced that reality, has taken responsibility for these actions,” Pieciak said.
We also know that about $2 million has been set aside from the state's civil settlement with Quiros and his business partner Bill Stenger. The state plans to use that money to help develop the land in Newport.
As for Bill Stenger, he pleaded not guilty to federal charges. His trial is set for next year.
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