Miami businessman pleads guilty in Vermont ski fraud case

FILE - In this May 22, 2019, file photo, Ariel Quiros, left, former owner of Jay Peak Resort, stands outside the federal courthouse in Burlington, Vt., after his arraignment on fraud charges over a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant using foreign investors' money. The Miami businessman, accused of being the mastermind behind a massive fraud case involving foreign investors' money in Vermont developments, is expected to plead guilty in next week in a plea deal in which prosecutors are seeking a sentence of more than eight years in prison. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke, File)
FILE - In this May 22, 2019, file photo, Ariel Quiros, left, former owner of Jay Peak Resort, stands outside the federal courthouse in Burlington, Vt., after his arraignment on fraud charges over a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant using foreign investors' money. The Miami businessman, accused of being the mastermind behind a massive fraud case involving foreign investors' money in Vermont developments, is expected to plead guilty in next week in a plea deal in which prosecutors are seeking a sentence of more than eight years in prison. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BURLINGTON, Vt. – A Miami businessman accused of being the mastermind behind the largest fraud case in Vermont's history pleaded guilty on Friday over a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant using tens of millions of dollars in foreign investors' money.

Ariel Quiros, 64, the former owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain ski resorts in northern Vermont, changed his plea to guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and the concealment of material information. Nine other charges were dropped.

Quiros pleaded guilty via video conference to the three separate charges, one at a time, after being asked by US District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford.

During the hourlong hearing, Quiros answered “Yes, Your Honor” or “No, Your Honor” to a series of questions from Crawford.

“Mr. Quiros’ guilt was beyond doubt," Michael Pieciak, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation said in a statement issued after the hearing. "Our department’s ten-month investigation traced every penny of investor money and determined that much of it had inappropriately been funneled to support Mr. Quiros’ lavish lifestyle.”

Quiros, of Key Biscayne, Florida, and three others were indicted over a failed plan to build a biotechnology plant in Newport, Vermont, using millions raised through the EB-5 visa program, which encourages foreigners to invest in U.S. projects that create jobs in exchange for a chance to earn permanent U.S. residency.

Quiros pleaded not guilty in May 2019 to 12 felony charges. He signed the plea deal on Aug. 5.

Under the plea agreement, Quiros would serve just over eight years in prison. The final sentence will be up to Crawford at sentencing, which will be held at a later date.