By LISA RATHKE, Associated Press
Federal prosecutors have dismissed fraud charges against a fourth man indicted over a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant in northern Vermont using tens of millions of dollars in foreign investors’ money raised through a special visa program.
Jong Weon Choi, also known as Alex Choi, was a business man in South Korea when he was indicted in 2019 along with the former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resorts, a lawyer and the former president of Jay Peak.
The three other men, former Jay and Burke resorts owner Ariel Quiros, former Jay Peak President William Stenger and Quiros’ adviser, William Kelly, were sentenced in April to prison, wrapping up the largest fraud case in Vermont history. Choi has remained at large.
The government requested evidence and testimony from the Republic of Korea in 2017 and has been unable to get “what it now believes to be important evidence relating to the case against Choi,” the U.S. attorney’s office stated in the court motion signed by the judge Monday. Since Choi was charged, he has not entered the United States or appeared before the court, the filing states.
“In light of these difficulties, as well as the resolution of the cases against the co-defendants, dismissal of the lndictment at this time is in the interests of justice,” the filing states.
Three years before the criminal indictment, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of Vermont alleged that Quiros and Stenger took part in a “massive eight-year fraudulent scheme.” The civil allegations involved misusing more than $200 million of about $400 million raised from foreign investors for various ski area developments through the EB-5 visa program, which encourages foreigners to invest in job-creating projects in the U.S. in exchange for a chance at permanent U.S. residency.
Quiros and Stenger settled civil charges with the SEC, with Quiros surrendering more than $80 million in assets, including the two resorts.
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