MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) The former director of the state's EB-5 Regional Center says officials in the Shumlin administration shut down his attempts look deeper into fraudulent projects.
The allegations are contained in a 256 page deposition related to a lawsuit filed in federal court by foreign investors against an immigration attorney. The suit relates to the Kingdom Con development projects sought through the foreign investor program.
Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger, the developers of Jay Peak and other proposed businesses in the Northeast Kingdom, have reached plea deals in civil cases brought by the federal government. But in a federal civil suit, Brent Raymond, the former EB-5 center director, says his efforts to receive more information from Quiros and Stenger was squashed by high-level Shumlin administration members.
Raymond was grilled in the deposition by attorney Russell Barr, who represents several foreign investors. He paints a picture of a chaotic program, where U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials had unclear instructions for how to operate a regional center. And he states several times in his deposition that top officials in the Shumlin administration did not follow his recommendation that the projects sought by Quiros and Stenger be audited by an independent party. He stated that former Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller initially agreed at one point to requiring an audit, but then backed off after Stenger said it would be too expensive. USCIS has now ordered the closure of Vermont's regional center and the state is appealing. Raymond says USCIS sought the closure to deflect from its own mismanagement of the program.
The big concern was self-dealing. Quiros was selling property to investors for significantly more than he paid for it. And it appeared that family members were benefiting from some transactions. Raymond said he inquired about that, but was told to back off by Alexandra McLean. McLean is a former campaign manager for Gov. Shumlin, and served as his deputy chief of staff before going to work for Bill Stenger. Raymond says she told him she would take her objections to Gov. Shumlin and other administration officials.
Raymond disputes the notion that the Vermont Regional Center was supposed to collect quarterly financial reports. He says the reports were something the state could required if it was needed, but officials were in regular contact with the developers, including quarterly site visits, so detailed financial accountings weren't needed. Of course, the defrauded investors have made that a central complaint -- that quarterly financial reporting would have shone a light much sooner on the fraud.