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You can’t discuss the history of Jay Peak without a timely, candid, open assessment of the Ponzi scheme scandal in which Jay Peak was embroiled from 2016 when the SEC seized Jay Peak from its owners and put it under receivership of one Michael Goldberg until 2023 when Goldberg permitted Jay Peak to be sold to Pacific Group Resorts, Inc., the winning applicant in an anonymous bidding process. The criminal scale was massive – one of the biggest frauds in United States history. It engulfed not just Jay Peak, but Vermont’s entire Northeast Kingdom, a region comprising 21% of the state.

The issue is also timely:  as we go to press, what the winter sports world hopes is the proverbial noble white knight continues the course it began:  operate as normal, to the immense relief of skiers and boarders everywhere, especially Indy Pass holders, who regard Jay Peak one of the plums in their pudding. We are watching Jay Peak turn a page as we speak, and analyses written now are the first draft of history, so it’s important to get the story delivered clinically, professionally, thoroughly, and clearly.

Most importantly – and if you take nothing else away from this story, remember this – it is a cautionary tale about corruption, failure of oversight, abuses of the immigration system, blind, misguided, and ineffective politicians and press, and an unwillingness to listen.

At its simplest, the resort’s most recent former owner, Ariel Quiros, with the aid of certain underlings, defrauded government investment programs, instead lining his pockets. It became a Ponzi scheme:  steal money entrusted to him for a business purpose, replace some (but not all) of that stolen money with the next infusion of cash, steal some more, replenish that with more converted money, all the while falling further behind, yet enriching himself at the expense of those who trusted him.

It all started in March of 2006. The former principal shareholder and operator of Jay Peak a Canadian named Jacques Hebert died suddenly, and all his knowledge of the ski industry died with him. His heirs, lacking the experience and acumen to run a major resort business, decided to sell Jay Peak.

In December of that same year, an investment program was launched for the benefit of building the Jay Peak Hotel started by then general manager and effective chief financial officer Bill Stenger. Under a federal program called EB-5, foreigners can invest $1 million in an approved U.S. business which must then create jobs in exchange for a green card, effectively buying the way to the front of the U.S. immigration line. Generally, investors reap projected returns of 2% to 6% and likely U.S. citizenship within two years. According to Vermont Digger, the news outlet that broke the scandal, (and embarrassed several major news outlets and politicians in the process including the New York Times), “With [Vermont’s] Northeast Kingdom labeled a Targeted Employment Area, the minimum investment is cut in half to $500,000, making participating rural businesses such as Jay Peak more attractive.” By the time discussions were being held to sell the resort, an amount close to $28 million had been raised. Remember this money; it became the seed of the steal.

Meanwhile, Quiros, a Miami businessman, got wind of the potential sale of the resort, some claim through Stenger, who had latched onto Quiros as worshippers often do to seemingly rich and powerful people. Quiros owned a condo at Jay, talked a big game, and had befriended Stenger. With Stanger’s assistance, Quiros attempted to broker a deal whereby a Korean Corporation Quiros brought to the table would purchase Jay Peak, and an agreement in principle was, in fact, reached, but the deal ultimately fell through. Some sources report it was because Hebert’s family worried that the Koreans might change the culture of the mountain in a way that might diminish its history, legacy, or character. According to New England Ski History, that was when Stenger reportedly urged Quiros to buy the resort himself. They wrote:

“Starting in January of 2008, Stenger operated Jay Peak for Quiros’s Q Resorts while a final sale agreement was arranged. In June 2008, Q Resorts acquired Jay Peak for $15 million plus the assumption of $8.5 million in debt. As part of the agreement, Stenger would allegedly earn a 20% ownership stake after five years.”

But a deal that at first looked above board harbored an insidious plan to steal millions and was enabled by a monstrous betrayal of trust.


According to reports, the original asking price was 26 million, but Quiros was worth only $4,000,000. Quiros first tried to get brokerage firm Raymond James to fund a loan, but they refused even though Quiros’s son in law worked for Raymond James. Even so, Quiros represented to the owners that Raymond James was on board. According to the SEC, Quiros then illegally used EB-5 money that was held in escrow for the Phase I Tram Haus Lodge and Phase II Hotel Jay projects to purchase the resort. Some claim he was able to accomplish this because Stenger released those funds from their account several minutes earlier than planned, allowing Quiros to wire that money through a number of dummy accounts he controlled, and then pay back the sellers with what was once their own money.

“How could I have been so naïve and careless?” Stenger wailed plaintively to – in Your Author’s opinion – an overly-friendly New Yorker Magazine in an article published shortly after his release from prison. Stenger served just half of his 18-month sentence for his role in the scandal. [Editor’s Note:  We wonder “qui bono?” – “who benefits?” – from the New Yorker’s simpering whitewash of Stenger, especially after the New York Times initially printed glowing ed Quiros’s promises without serious investigation while attacking VT Digger relentlessly for its reporting. The New Yorker article is entitled The Rural Ski Slope Caught Up in an International Scam and was written by Sheelah Kolhat. Anne Galloway, of VT Digger’s response in the form of a letter to the New Yorker’s editors is below.]

As the years passed, Quiros continued selling EB-5s to the tune of close to $400,000,000, nearly half of which he used to find a lavish lifestyle for himself and his wife, including a condo in Manhattan’s Trump Tower and vacation homes in sunny locales. But all many people saw were the new hotel, condos, golf course, and Waterpark at Jay Peak, and all many people heard were Quiros’s grandiose plans and promises to extend his largess to all the Northeast Kingdom, a long depressed rural area with a multi-million dollar nanotech and biomedical facility.

There were warning signs galore, but both Federal and state regulators, desperate for a fairy tale, bought in to Quiros’s schemes, their fears often quelled by Stenger’s cooings. As one observer told the press, if it weren’t for Stenger, no one would have taken Quiros seriously; he came off as somewhat sleazy.

Countless individuals and businesses counting on new jobs upended their lives, taking a flyer on the promised riches and prosperity. They got nothing but heartache and broken dreams.

Finally, after close to five years of rumblings and complaints from investors, and incontrovertible proof being published by VT Digger, federal regulators brought civil enforcement actions against Quiros and Stenger in April 2016, accusing the two developers of misusing more than $200 million of the money they raised over nearly a decade from foreign investors.

It was a scene out of a movie. One minute J.J. Tolland, PR maven for the mountain at the time, was typing at his computer, and a moment later an armed federal agent was advising him to step away from his desk. A frazzled and frightened office assistant called Stenger on his cell phone imploring him to get to the mountain immediately. When Stenger was slapped with the 80-page complaint against he and Quiros, he indignantly moaned, “I know nothing about this.”

Quiros and Stenger settled civil charges with the SEC, with Quiros surrendering more than $80 million in assets, including the two ski resorts. While Quiros’s plea deal would have had him in jail for eight years, he is currently serving a five-year term for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and concealing material information. Stenger reached a deal with federal prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to a single charge of making a false statement to the government about the biomedical research facility project. Additional charges, including several fraud counts, were dismissed as part of the agreement.

According to VT Digger, “At that sentencing hearing, Federal Judge Geoffrey Crawford called Stenger the face of the project as well as its most ardent cheerleader.

‘It was his idea,’ Crawford said, asserting that Stenger brought ‘credibility’ to the far-fetched project. Few investors would have bought into the project if not for Stenger’s convincing pitches, the judge said. As part of Stenger’s federal sentence, in addition to the prison time he was ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution. Court records show that Stenger has made monthly payments since August of between $431 and $572 as payment of ‘criminal debt.’”

Quiros is appealing his five-year sentence. VT Digger also reports, “incarcerated at FPC Pensacola, a minimum-security federal prison camp in Florida, [Quiros, now] 67…was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Burlington in August 2022 to five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and concealing material information. Quiros, representing himself in a court filing this week, asked federal Chief Judge Geoffrey Crawford to consider the “physical and psychological toll” of incarceration in his bid to reduce his sentence under the First Step Act, a federal law passed in 2018 that aims to promote rehabilitation and decrease the federal prison population.”

Just like with Mt. Snow and the Oxycontin scandal, don’t blame Jay Peak employees and locals for what happened. But it is right to ask important questions:  Why did Vermont’s elected officials fail so badly on this? Is Vermont doing something wrong with the way they choose the people they put in power? What does this say about one party rule in Vermont? In any state?


“Sheelah Kolhatkar’s story ‘Slippery Slope’ mentioned the state of Vermont’s $16.5 million settlement with EB-5 investors, but did not explain why Vermont taxpayers are on the hook.

Governor Peter Shumlin and members of his administration not only failed to provide any oversight of the Jay Peak projects, they actually perpetuated the fraud. In 2015 federal regulators warned Shumlin’s staff that Jay Peak was a Ponzi scheme. Despite that, and knowing investors would not get their green cards and investments back, the state solicited about 50 more unsuspecting foreign investors who each wrote $500,000 checks held in a state bank account. The Vermont Attorney General’s office then used the money to construct the Burke Mountain hotel. In the article Shumlin says he felt betrayed; but it was the investors who believed in “honest” state officials who were betrayed. Shumlin glibly told The New Yorker he stayed at the luxury Manhattan apartment of former Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros to save taxpayers money. For what the taxpayers will pay for the state’s failures they could have purchased the apartment.”

To date Anne has heard no reply privately or publicly from the New Yorker.

Meanwhile Pacific Resorts Group, Inc. survived a grueling 41-month shopping and bidding process. Having just five venues at the time Receiver Goldberg accepted their bid, Jay Peak quickly became their most prominent holding.

“I’s a fantastically strategic resort and that’s why we pursued it,” PGRI’s Christian Knapp stated to us in an interview shortly after the purchase. “Wie did a lot of due diligence and had a lot of tenacity to see the whole thing through. It was remarkably complex…It’s a long and public process to acquire an asset out of receiver ship.”


Happily, the mountain survived and so did Jay Peak’s culture and character. Sure, through Indy Pass it’s grown from a day trippers mountain to a destination resort, even bucket list to true connoisseurs. And doubtless it is glade capital of the east; Bill Stenger actually did something right not only embracing the glade movement, but making it an indelible part of the Jay experience for al levels of skier and boarder. Stenger cut the glades, and they are an indisputable masterstroke.

Moreover, while once they were exclusively reliant on winter for tourism, now with the water park, golf course, ice arena, movie theatre, and concert venue, they can sustain a year-round business model. Up until 2008 there might have been 50 year-round employees and 300 seasonals. Now there are 1,600 seasonals and about 800 year-round employees, a seismic shift. No longer relying on a 150 day business season to carry them through, wash out the pandemic  and they’ve had five of the most profitable years in the history of Jay Peak.