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Judge denies Quiros’ request

  • Ariel Quiros, center, leaves federal court in Burlington after being arraigned on charges pertaining to the EB-5 fraud case on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger GLENN RUSSELL

Published: 1/24/2023 4:55:56 PM
Modified: 1/24/2023 4:55:30 PM

A federal judge has rejected former Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros’ bid to have his five-year prison sentence reduced in the largest fraud case in Vermont history.

In his ruling Monday, Judge Geoffrey Crawford wrote that he did not have the power to cut short Quiros’ sentence, at least not by the method the former Miami businessman proposed in a court filing and accompanying letter submitted by his lawyer last month.

Quiros asked the judge to reconsider the sentence imposed on him in August, stating, in part, that not enough consideration was given to his cooperation with the government that, he claimed, helped lead to the conviction of two other men in the case.

Crawford wrote in his three-page decision that sentence reconsideration can be granted only under certain conditions, and Quiros’ argument fell short.

For instance, the judge wrote, sentence reconsideration can be considered to correct “clear error” within 14 days of sentencing, reducing a sentence for substantial assistance on the government’s motion, or correcting a clerical error.

None of those instances exist in this case, the judge wrote.

“Instead, the defendant seeks reconsideration of the factors the court previously weighed in reaching a sentencing decision,” the ruling stated.

“Principles of finality — with limited exceptions not relevant here — prevent the court from being drawn into exactly the type of reconsideration of the relative culpability and cooperation of the three defendants proposed here,” Crawford added.

Quiros, in his letter and in his attorney’s filing, challenged the court’s decision to impose a harsher sentence on him than on his two co-defendants in the case, despite being the first of the three to reach a plea deal with the prosecution and agreeing to cooperate against the other two.

The others — Bill Stenger, Jay Peak’s past president, and William Kelly, a key adviser and friend of Quiros — later reached plea deals with the prosecution and were sentenced by Crawford to 18 months each.

All three men charged in the case are currently serving their sentences in federal prison.

Quiros pleaded guilty in August 2020 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and concealing of material information. His plea deal allowed prosecutors to ask for a sentence of up to 97 months, or a little over eight years in prison. He was allowed to argue for a lesser sentence.

Quiros, Stenger and Kelly were indicted in May 2019 for their roles in a failed project to build a $110 million biomedical research facility in Newport, Vt., known as AnC Bio Vermont. Despite raising more than $80 million for the project from over 160 foreign investors through the federal EB-5 visa program, the project never got off the ground.

Foreign investors through the EB-5 program can gain permanent U.S. residency if their investment of at least $500,000 meets job-creating requirements.

A presentence report prepared by the federal probation office calculated that, under advisory sentencing guidelines, Quiros would have faced between 12.5 and 15.5 years in prison had his plea deal not capped his maximum sentence. Crawford ended up imposing the five-year prison term for Quiros, three years less than what the plea deal would have allowed.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prison’s online listing for incarcerated individuals, the release date for Quiros is set for Oct. 17, 2026. Quiros, 66, is serving his sentence at FPC Pensacola, a minimum-security federal prison camp in Florida.

Quiros, in his letter from behind bars last month, wrote that he was “begging” the judge for mercy, citing, in part, health problems facing him and his wife.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Van de Graaf, a prosecutor in the case, filed a response asserting that law does not permit such a move at this time.

“Quiros has not collaterally attacked his sentence,” the prosecutor wrote. “Rather, he plainly seeks a change of heart from the Court.”

Prosecutors have termed Quiros the “wheeler-dealer” of the trio — in it for the money and unwilling to stop the “gravy train” from moving forward.

Neil Taylor, Quiros’ attorney, could not be reached immediately Monday afternoon for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont, which handled the prosecution, through a spokesperson declined comment Monday afternoon.

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