Daily Archives: April 20, 2016

Did Bill Stenger make a deal with the devil?

Previously in this space, I questioned if it was possible that an experienced businessman like Bill Stenger could actually be clueless to the rampant looting of his own project, and remain that way for several years running.

My conclusion: No, he could not.

Which brings us to this: If he knew what was going on, why did he let Ariel Quiros (who had illegally used EB-5 investor money to become Stenger’s boss) pursue this crooked scheme? Why did he put his own finances and reputation on the line, even when the signs of trouble became impossible to miss?

Two possibilities. First, he was getting a cut. Could be.

Second, he was in severe financial straits and needed a Quiros to bail him out. Call Quiros a “devil investor,” if you will. Certanly not an angel.

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Inartful dodges and implausible denials

Must be a new experience for Bill Stenger, having a hard time getting his calls returned. After all, he’s been a major player at the intersection of Vermont business and politics for a long time now, benefiting from sweetheart deals and inadequate oversight (see Postscript below) courtesy of at least two successive administrations.

After years of holding together his massive EB-5 project with chicken wire and spit, Stenger is now embroiled in the sales pitch of a lifetime: portraying himself as innocent in the face of federal and state investigations and an increasingly ugly paper trail.

From VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld, we learn that federal officials “had strong forensic evidence of a massive fraud” at least two years ago, and that Stenger was subjected to an intensive interview by SEC investigators in May 2014.

And from the Burlington Free Press’ Jess Aloe, we learn that Stenger’s top financial executive resigned in 2011 “after [Stenger] failed to address concerns about the use of money from foreign investors.”

It is literally impossible to believe that an experienced entrepreneur like Stenger could somehow remain clueless in the face of all that. But there he was, telling the Free Press last Monday (two days before the SEC raided his offices, seized his papers, and changed the locks) that nothing was wrong. And on Friday, two days after the raid, he doubled down.

“There was a lot of stuff in the presentation that I got on Wednesday that I was not aware of,” Stenger said. “I can’t go any further than that. I’ve got to let it go at that. I’m trying to figure this out as well. I just need to deal with it.”

Okay, I see what we’re doing here: blaming the dark-skinned flatlander.

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