Federal investigators started interviews in Florida concerning accusations Vermont Sen. Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders’ wife, conducted a bank fraud while serving as president of the now-defunct Burlington College.
According to the accusations, in order to expand the campus of Burlington College, she falsified loan documents which led the College into bankruptcy in May 2016, agitated more than a year prior.
The Daily Caller News Foundation was the first to announce the accusations against Mrs. Sanders in March 2015. The existence of investigation is not officially confirmed by the Department of Justice and the FBI, anyhow officials from the FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) by conducting recent interviews that were independently confirmed to TheDCNF are implying that investigation is ongoing.
On a 2010 loan application, Sanders wrote that 83-year-old Corinne Bove Maietta, the daughter of the founders of Bove Restaurants in Burlington, obliged $1 million to Burlington College in next five years. According to Maietta, who has a property in West Palm Beach, it was not a pledge but an unspecified bequest to be paid to the school upon her death. As Maietta’s accountant confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation, the FBI contacted him seeking an interview with Maietta.
“It was sometime back in March or April, during tax season,” Richard Moss, Maietta’s accountant, told TheDCNF. “It was in regards to Corine Maietta’s current address and where they could contact her for questions related to Burlington College. If she was in Vermont, the FBI was going to interview her, and if she was down in Florida, a person with the FDIC working with the FBI was going to interview her.”
Recently, the FBI also interviewed an orthopedic surgeon Ron Leavitt, who moved to Naples, Fla., after leaving Burlington. He was questioned about a donation of $30,000 that he made, according to Seven Days, an alternative weekly publication covering local issues in Vermont. On April 28, former Burlington College board member Sara Adsit-McCuin confirmed to Seven Days that “a couple of weeks ago in person” she was questioned about the loans by two FBI agents.
After Mrs. Sanders finished her career as president of Burlington College where she served from 2004 until 2011, she left with a $200,000 severance package, as previously reported. Sanders had the college take on $10 million in debt to purchase a piece of land to expand the campus as a part of her plan to increase enrollment at the college.
In the 2010 loan application, she stated that $2.6 million are secured in promised donations to pay for the land purchase, which will ensure a $6.5 million loan from the
Carol Moore, who served as the final president of the college until its closure, said TheDCNF that a month ago she was also interviewed by the FBI about the allegations.
“BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president and, six years later, approved the imprudent purchase of a $10 million piece of property for campus expansion,” was written in a letter that Moore in August 2016 sent to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Moore told Seven Days in April that since the school closed, she was contacted by the FBI multiple times and the FBI investigators roughly interviewed her “three or four weeks ago,” and the agents classified the situation as “an ongoing investigation.” She added that the questions asked by investigators were very specific.
Moore described to Seven Days some of the questions FBI investigators asked her, “Was there any collusion between Jane Sanders and the bank? Did she falsify records in order to get the loan from the bank?”
The emails that were collected by the Vermont Digger in April verify FBI investigators subpoenaed Coralee Holm, the former Burlington College dean of operations, regarding the fundraising efforts for the land purchase. The emails also confirm the US Attorney’s Office in Vermont and FBI investigators earlier this year investigated records from Burlington College.
“They were asking for documentation about the fundraising that had occurred before the college had moved to its new location,” Holm told Vermont Digger. “There was not a lot of documentation for me to provide on the topic.”
According to Holm the FBI investigators took a “filing cabinet full of donor files” and told that they planned to speak with Jane Sanders. She also delivered emails from Sanders to the investigators.
In January 2016, Brady Toensing, a lawyer based in Washington, D.C., formally requested to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont and the Inspector General of the FDIC to investigate the accusations of fraud against Sanders. He requested the U.S. Attorney to investigate the claims that the senator’s office pressured People’s United Bank to approve the $6.5 million loan.
TheDCNF even though reached out to the Sen. Sanders, at the time of publication didn’t provide answer to the request.
However, TheDCNF obtained a 2011 audit of the school’s finances in March 2015, which failed to account for the $2.6 million in supposed commitments for the land purchase. They also requested internal emails from Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency (VEHBFA), a state agency that issues tax-exempt state bonds for the benefit of non-profit institutions like schools or hospitals.
The representative of Sanders, Jeff Weaver made a statement released on Wednesday to Vermont Public Radio, saying the FBI has not yet contacted Jane Sanders.
“In February of 2016, in the middle of Bernie’s presidential campaign, the vice-chair of the Vermont Republican Party asked for a federal investigation of Burlington College,” reads the statement, released through public relations firm Revolution Messaging. “Jane has not been contacted by the FBI or any other authority and only knows as much as news reports indicate. Jane served as president of the college from 2004 to 2011. In the five years following her departure, the college experienced major turnovers in leadership, staff and its Board of Trustees.”
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