In a story that hasn’t been getting much coverage lately, Bernie Sander’s (I-VT) wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, is being investigated for suspicion of committing bank fraud. It is a long and winding tale with many moving parts but worth a quick read — so here goes.
Ms. Sanders allegedly committed the fraud for a loan to purchase land for the Burlington College in Vermont, where she had served as president from 2004 – 2011. Also, to acquire the property, Mrs. Sanders had to evict sixteen disabled adults from the Howard Center group home. According to Judicial Watch, Mrs. Sanders was having difficulties evicting the tenants, so she sent a letter to Todd Centybear, the attorney representing the facility explaining her troubles. “It’s simply not fair to expect the college to continue the burden of the expenses associated with housing both your population and ours,” she wrote.
The land deal went through in 2010, just a year before Mrs. Sanders resigned her position at the college. You would think a lady as progressive as Ms. Sanders would have negotiated and made arrangements for the mentally and physically disabled residents as part of the agreement. However, in a letter addressed to Centybear, Sanders said the group home was responsible for relocating the residents and had more than enough time to do so.
Then in a press release dated April 29, 2011, The Champlain Housing Trust and Howard Center reached an agreement to rehabilitate property that would accommodate the sixteen residents. Sanders resigned just a few months later. The land deal has been described as the downfall of Burlington College; the institution closed its doors for good in 2016 due to extreme financial difficulties attributed mostly to the purchase and handling of this transaction. Despite multiple attempts, Sanders’ failed to bring in more revenue and enrollment to the college – thus the closure of the school.
The 32-acre land overlooked a lake and housed a former orphanage, which was converted to offices for the Vermont’s Roman Catholic Church and the Howard Center. According to reports, the Diocese needed the money from the sale of the land to help settle disputes and claims of priest sex abuse cases. Isn’t that special?
Initially, it all sounded like a good plan: Get the extra land for another college campus and boost enrollment. To do so, Sanders needed money, so she applied for a $10 million loan. The loan was approved contingent upon the school raising $2.27 million in pledges. She planned to help pay for the deal by increasing enrollment from 180 students to around 500, but of course, that never happened. While Sanders agreed in writing to the plan, the school only managed to come up with $676,000, a far cry from the agreed upon amount.
Now, here’s where things get tricky. One of the “donors” to the land fund went on record saying Sanders had mischaracterized the terms of the gift. Corinne Bove Maietta told Vermont’s news website VTDigger that she had agreed to donate an unspecified amount, but only upon her death. According to VTDigger, “Documents show, however, that Sanders put her down for a series of cash payments.”
The report went on to say Sanders appeared “to have counted Maietta’s bequest as a cash gift that was available as collateral to finance the land deal.” It further states, “CBM [Maietta] pledged $1 million to the school over five years in increments of $150,000, with a final payment of $100,000 in year six.” Maietta said she never signed anything and never agreed to pay installments of any kind.
In January 2016, Brady Toensing, the former chair of President Donald Trump’s campaign in Vermont, sent a letter to the FBI, asking them to probe Sanders to see if there were any fraudulent activities:
In order to get those loans, she [Sanders] had to confirm guaranteed donations of $2.6 million. Of that $2.6 million, the school was only able to collect about 25 percent … and of the confirmed donations, three of the donors have come forward to say that the school overstated their pledge amounts.
Maietta, who was interviewed by a federal investigator looking into possible fraud from Sanders, said she gave the school less than $1,000 – not quite the $1 million listed as collateral.
Aside from Sanders not being able to raise even half of the required pledge to meet the loan agreement, Toensing had been told by Republican State Representative Leader Don Turner that Senator Sanders had pressured the bank to agree to the loan, according to friends at the bank. Turner further said those same friends did not have “direct knowledge of the negotiations,” and that he wouldn’t take the information to the FBI. Toensing, however, was convinced the FBI should investigate.
Senator Sanders said his wife is the most “honest” person he knows and that these claims are “pathetic.” He said the FBI probe is “something [the] Republican National Committee is very excited about.”
However, with the official complaint, documentation submitted said the $2.6 million would come from forty sources. Although those sources were listed on a spreadsheet, the only identifying data about them were initials listed only as friends or staff.
“If you look at who was harmed by this whole financial debacle,” Toensing said, “the Catholic Church lost almost $2 million, the taxpayers of Vermont lost almost $150,000, the bank lost untold amounts of money and the school went bankrupt. But [Jane and Bernie Sanders], they were not financially harmed.”
It’s doubtful this is the end of this story as FBI investigations of bank fraud are nothing to full around with. Stay tuned to Liberty Nation for more on this saga of a defunct school and a controversial land deal involving a former presidential candidate’s wife continues to develop.