The left’s favorite socialist politician might be in some hot water. Politico Magazine recently reported that Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and his wife Jane Sanders have retained legal counsel in relation to an F.B.I. investigation into possible bank fraud.
The case focuses on a bank loan that Jane Sanders obtained while she was the president of the now-defunct Burlington College in Vermont. The matter came about last year when Brady Toensing – the chairman of President Trump’s campaign in Vermont – wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney outlining the potential fraud. Upon receiving the notice, the F.B.I. began their investigation.
The issue did not garner much attention during the primaries and the presidential campaign – Mr. Sanders did not offer much information when the press questioned him. However, the senator did comment on the situation in May while speaking with a reporter from WCAX. He stated:
It is nonsense. But now that there is a process going on, which was initiated by Trump’s campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state, it would be improper at this point for me to add any more to that.
Bernie and Jane Sanders did not seem to worry about the case until now. Jeff Weaver, the head of Sanders’ political organization, told Politico Magazine that the couple hired Rich Cassidy and Larry Robbins to represent them.
The alleged fraudulent behavior occurred when Burlington College – under the leadership of Jane Sanders – obtained a $10 million bank loan to expand the college. The plan was to purchase thirty-three acres for the expansion.
According to the letter that Mr. Toensing sent, Jane Sanders had obtained the funding by falsifying the amount of money donors had pledged to give to the institution to pay back the loans. Ms. Sanders allegedly inflated the number by $2 million. The claims that the letter makes were backed up by a dozen documents and six exhibits. Politico Magazine says Mr. Toensing maintains that Sanders had “successfully and intentionally engaged in a fraudulent scheme to actively conceal and misrepresent material facts from a federal financial institution.”
In early 2016, federal prosecutors received a second letter stating that Sen. Bernie Sanders had used his office to pressure the bank to approve the loan. The letter said that “improper pressure by a United States Senator is a serious ethical violation.”
On July 2014, a Vermont newspaper named Seven Days published a piece discussing Burlington College’s precarious financial situation. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges placed it on probation, and the institution was planning to sell land to help pay off its debt.
Politico Magazine states that after reading the report, Brady Toensing obtained loan documents from the Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency. Mr. Toensing discovered the alleged fraud when he analyzed the information in the documents. The repetitive word detailed the steps Jane Sanders took to convince the bank that the college could repay its loans.
After sharing the information with various news outlets, reporters decided to dig deeper. VTDigger’s Morgan True found that there were discrepancies between what Jane Sanders had presented to the bank and Burlington College’s real income. Apparently, Sanders told the bank that Burlington College had $2.6 million. However, the reality is that the college only received $676,000 between 2010 and 2014.
Additionally, she listed two donors as having confirmed pledges for a higher amount than they had actually offered – neither of these donors understood that their donations were to be used to repay a loan. One donor had pledged $1 million to be paid upon her death, but Burlington College’s loan application stated that these funds would be paid out over the next few years.
Since the investigation is ongoing, it is not easy to determine whether or not Jane Sanders is guilty of bank fraud. Also, there is no evidence that Sen. Bernie Sanders pressured the bank to approve the loan – Politico Magazine says that both of these charges might be difficult to prove. Over the past year, Bernie Sanders has remained a prominent figure on the left despite the investigation. He is working to move the Democratic Party towards socialism. Now that the case in back in the spotlight, it could damage his influence – especially if Jane Sanders is found to have committed bank fraud. Either way, the F.B.I.’s investigation could cripple the efforts of the left.