Federal investigators are conducting interviews in Florida regarding accusations Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s wife, Jane Sanders, defrauded a bank while serving as president of the now-defunct Burlington College.
Allegations that Jane Sanders falsified loan documents to expand the campus of Burlington College, which collapsed into bankruptcy in May 2016, swirled more than a year prior. The Daily Caller News Foundation first broke the news of the allegations against Mrs. Sanders in March 2015. The Department of Justice and the FBI will not confirm the existence of an investigation, but recent interviews conducted by officials from the FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), independently confirmed to TheDCNF, suggest an investigation is ongoing.
Sanders wrote on a 2010 loan application that 83-year-old Corinne Bove Maietta, the daughter of the founders of Bove Restaurants in Burlington, pledged $1 million to Burlington College over five years. Maietta, who has a property in West Palm Beach, says it was not a pledge but an unspecified bequest to be paid to the school upon her death. 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.”
The FBI also recently interviewed Ron Leavitt, an orthopedic surgeon who moved to Naples, Fla., after leaving Burlington. The agents asked him about a $30,000 donation he made, according to Seven Days, an alternative weekly publication covering local issues in Vermont. Former Burlington College board member Sara Adsit-McCuin confirmed to Seven Days April 28 that two FBI agents interviewed her in person “a couple of weeks ago” regarding the loans.
Mrs. Sanders served as president of Burlington College from 2004 until 2011, before reportedly leaving with a $200,000 severance package. As part of an ambitious plan to boost enrollment at the college, Sanders had the college take on $10 million in debt to purchase a piece of land to expand the campus.
Sanders stated in a 2010 loan application she had secured $2.6 million in promised donations to pay for the land purchase, which helped secure a $6.5 million loan from the People’s United Bank. Only $676,000 ever materialized over the next four years and the college defaulted on the loans, eventually going bankrupt in May 2016.
Carol Moore, who served as the final president of the college until its closure, told TheDCNF the FBI contacted her as recently as a month ago regarding 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,” Moore wrote in an August 2016 letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Moore, who was interviewed by the FBI multiple times since the school closed, told Seven Days in April that when FBI investigators spoke with her roughly “three or four weeks ago,” the agents classified the situation as “an ongoing investigation.” Moore also noted the questions asked by investigators were very specific.
Moore recounted to Seven Days some of the questions FBI investigators asked her, including, “Was there any collusion between Jane Sanders and the bank? Did she falsify records in order to get the loan from the bank?”
Emails obtained by the Vermont Digger in April confirm that FBI investigators subpoenaed Coralee Holm, the former Burlington College dean of operations, regarding the fundraising efforts for the land purchase. The emails also reveal that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont and FBI investigators reviewed records from Burlington College earlier this year.
“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.”
Holm said the FBI investigators took a “filing cabinet full of donor files” and said they planned to speak with Jane Sanders. She also turned over emails from Sanders to the investigators.
Brady Toensing, a lawyer based in Washington, D.C., made a formal request to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont and the Inspector General of the FDIC in January 2016 to investigate the allegations of fraud against Sanders. Among the evidence Toensing asked the U.S. Attorney to investigate were claims that the senator’s office pressured People’s United Bank to approve the $6.5 million loan.
TheDCNF reached out to the Sen. Sanders but did not receive a reply at the time of publication.
Reporters at 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. TheDCNF also obtained 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.
Jeff Weaver, a representative of Sanders released a Wednesday statement 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.”
This report, by Steve Birr, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.