Foreign ski-area investors sue U.S. over residency petitions

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Foreigners who invested in northern Vermont ski area developments that are now linked to a fraud case are suing the federal government for failing to act on their petitions for U.S. residency.

The 74 investors bankrolled $500,000 each in projects at Jay Peak and Burke Mountain through a visa program with hopes of getting permanent residency if the developments created a certain amount of jobs.

In the lawsuit filed Friday in Florida, the lawyers for the investors accuse the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of leaving the residency petitions of 150 foreigners in limbo.

The agency declined to comment Wednesday, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.

One man was denied boarding planes in two separate instances when he was travelling to India due to his father’s ailing health, the lawyers stated in the lawsuit.

In another example, a man has been unable to close his business in India and move it to the U.S., “leading to considerable financial loss, mental stress, and inconvenience created by the need to maintain presence in two locations,” the lawyers wrote. The man “has not been able to permanently and comfortably settle down with his family in the U.S.”

They argue they have been harmed because their investment funds are at risk and because they do not know whether they will get permanent residency. The EB-5 visa program helps foreigners obtain permanent residency by investing in job-creating developments in the U.S.

The investors want the government to be required to adjudicate their petitions within 30 days.

The investors face ongoing uncertainty about the future, which hinders their ability to make family and life choices and deprives them of peace of mind in knowing where their future will be, their lawyers argue.

The investors also face repeated questions and must constantly explain and prove their legal status in the U.S., according to the lawsuit.

The projects they invested in are linked to Ariel Quiros, a Miami businessman and former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain, and William Stenger, the former president of Jay Peak, who were accused in 2016 of misusing more than $200 million raised from foreign investors. They have reached settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the state and have admitted no wrongdoing.

They are now facing federal fraud charges, along with two other men, in a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant in Newport using foreigners’ money.

Quiros and Stenger pleaded not guilty in May to engaging in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, participating in that conspiracy, wire fraud, and concealing facts about the plant’s investor funds. Quiros also pleaded not guilty to money laundering.

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