Key player in Kingdom Con out of prison, back home

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 2:36 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 3:43 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A key player in the Kingdom Con scandal is out of prison and back home in Newport.

Bill Stenger was sentenced last spring to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution for his role in the massive EB-5 fraud case. After serving nine months of his sentence at a federal prison in Massachusetts, Stenger’s son, Andrew, tells WCAX he picked up his father Wednesday morning.

“We are very happy to have him home and put this behind us,” Andrew said.

Stenger became the king of the kingdom -- skilled at bringing cash to one of the most economically challenged parts of the state. He promised to help transform the region into a tourist destination and a technology hub. But the dream he pitched for the area he said he loved, turned into a nightmare and literally left a mark on the community-- a hole in the heart of downtown Newport after development he promised never happened.

The scheme used EB-5 money foreign investors paid to help create job-generating businesses in exchange for a path to U.S. residency. Much of that work was completed at Jay Peak Resort -- where Stenger was president -- and at Burke Mountain. But in 2019, federal officials announced the grand plan was a sham. A multi-year investigation uncovered the largest fraud case in Vermont’s history.

Some $450 million was raised for kingdom projects. Federal officials say $200 million was misspent, plugging financial holes and covering expenses for other projects and a never-built biotech company that was pure fiction.

Stenger says his business partner, Ariel Quiros, was the mastermind behind the Ponzi-like scheme and that he was duped, too. The scam allowed Quiros to divert $50 million for his own personal use, including a condo in Trump Tower.

Stenger was never convicted of fraud, but federal Judge Geoffrey Crawford said he was the public face of it. He said without Stenger, a respected and reputable member of the Northeast Kingdom community, the EB-5 projects wouldn’t have been possible.

Stenger tells WCAX he met the requirements for early release from prison and that he will take the next couple of days to decompress with his family.

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