Blog: USCIS withdraws prior decision to terminate the EB-5 Vermont Regional Center – Vermont Biz

The Tram Haus Lodge at Jay Peak was the resort’s first EB-5 project. VBM photo.

Vermont Business Magazine On Thursday the State of Vermont received a decision from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granting the state’s motion for USCIS to reconsider its July 3, 2018 Notice of Termination. That earlier decision terminated the Vermont Regional Center (VRC) and put the immigration status of hundreds of foreign investors in jeopardy.

The state filed its motion to reconsider on October 25, 2019 following the denial of its initial administrative appeal. In granting this motion, USCIS reversed its prior decision to terminate the regional center, citing: (1) the State’s implementation of enhanced project oversight; (2) the State’s investigation and subsequent enforcement action against the Jay Peak project developers; and (3) the continued economic benefit the EB-5 projects brought to Vermont despite the Jay Peak fraud.

“Five years ago, our Department brought an enforcement action to protect the Jay Peak investors and we have continued to vigorously defend their interests with USCIS,” said Michael Pieciak, commissioner at the Department of Financial Regulation. “We are extremely pleased that USCIS agreed with our interpretation of the facts and the law. We pursued this outcome because it was the right thing to do for hundreds of existing investors and should allow them to continue their journey for a better life in the United States.”

The decision is also beneficial to preserving the economic benefit that occurred through the EB-5 program, as the state moves forward with its plan to responsibly phase out the Regional Center.

Pieciak said they would want to keep the Center going until all the investor cases have been settled, which could take more than a year. He said there are 300-500 immigrant investors with conditional green cards and upwards of 200 which are still in process.

Related projects at Jay Peak, as well as Mt Snow and Trapp Family Lodge also are still in limbo.

Immigrant investors paid $500,000 plus $50,000 in fees to invest in the Jay Peak and Burke projects. There investment, if it met the USCIS requirements, would gain them a permanent green card for them and their immediate family. If the investment proved profitable, the could even get their investment back with interest. Many investors in these projects have got their green cards and a return on their investment. The state wants everyone to achieve these goals, as intended.

Michael Goldberg, the federally appointed receiver for the Jay Peak projects, was also pleased with the USCIS decision.

“The decision to terminate the Vermont Regional Center devastated many innocent victims of the Jay Peak fraud. I am extremely grateful to the State of Vermont for its relentless effort over the past few years in pursuing the appeal,” said Mr. Goldberg. “I am hopeful that the Administrative Appeals Office’s decision will pave the way for all the Jay Peak and Burke investors to ultimately achieve their desired immigration status.”

“We are so pleased that this decision protects the interests of innocent investors and furthers the beneficial economic development impacts to the state,” Joan Goldstein, commissioner at the Department of Economic Development.

The matter is now remanded back to the Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program Office to enter an order that is consistent with the decision granting the State’s motion. That should allow the State to implement its gradual wind-down plan, announced in 2017, under which the State would continue to support existing EB-5 projects while not accepting any new projects.

Federal agents raided the Jay Peak and Burke Mountain offices almost exactly five years ago on April 14, 2016.

Owner of the resorts, Ariel Quiros, pleaded guilty in the $200 million fraud case in August 2020 and faces eight years in prison. Two other defendants, former Jay Peak President Bill Stenger and Quiros associate William Kelly are expected to go to trial this summer.

Source: Montpelier, VT – Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Vermont DFR

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