FBI investigates Bernie Sanders’ wife for bank fraud ‒ report
The wife of Senator Bernie Sanders is being investigated for allegedly defrauding a bank when she was head of Burlington College. Her husband is slamming the charges as being politically motivated.
Federal investigators are conducting interviews regarding Jane Sanders, who was the president of Burlington College from 2004 to 2011. It is alleged that she falsified loan documents in order to expand the college grounds, according to a Friday report from the Daily Caller.
The report alleges that Sanders overstated the amount of money the school was expecting from donors on a 2010 loan application to the People’s United Bank.
Sanders allegedly told the bank that the college would receive $2.6 million in donations in order to secure a $6.5 million loan. However, only a quarter of the expected donations, $676,000, was raised over the next four years.
When Sanders became president of the small, independent liberal arts college, she planned to expand its size. In 2010, the college borrowed $10 million to finance the purchase of 33 acres of lakefront property from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington that would effectively double the size of the campus.
"When the college bought that property I think everybody took a huge breath and thought, wow. They're swinging for the fences. Can they really do this?" Yves Bradley, chair of the obsolete college's board of trustees, told WCAX.
The Daily Caller report cites one of the donors whom Sanders allegedly told the bank had pledged $1 million dollars to the school. Corinne Bove Maietta did agree to donate to the college, but she claims she never signed a pledge for $1 million to the school.
In a recent interview with the Vermont Digger, Maietta said she told Jane Sanders that she would provide an unspecified amount to the college upon her death. She gave less than $100,000 to the college before it closed, according to the Vermont Digger.
“I never told them how much, and I never signed anything. … It was all on my word,” she said.
When the donations fell short and the increased enrollment never materialized, the bank pulled the college’s line of credit. In May 2016, the 40-year-old college was forced to close, citing a "crushing weight of debt."
When Sanders left, Carol Moore served as the president until the college closed. After the college shut its doors, Moore wrote a letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education, citing Sanders’ actions as the reason for the closure.
“[Burlington College’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.
Moore told the Daily Caller that the FBI contacted her regarding the allegations against Sanders. Additionally, Seven Days reports that agents have also interviewed five people who were connected to the college over the past 15 months.
One donor, Ron Leavitt, who briefly took his late wife’s position on the board of trustees, told Seven Days, a Vermont weekly newspaper, that the FBI’s questions focused around his donations to the college.
"Was there any collusion between Jane Sanders and the bank?" Moore quoted the FBI agent who questioned him. "Did she falsify records in order to get the loan from the bank?"
Leavitt claims that he donated $30,000 to the college, however, his pledge is listed as two contributions of $30,000 a piece.
"I don't remember doing that," Leavitt told Seven Days.
The allegations against Sanders first surfaced in January 2016 when Brady Toensing, the vice chairman of the Vermont Republican Party and the Vermont State Chairman for the Trump Campaign, sent a letter to US attorney Eric Miller, formally requesting an investigation into “apparent federal bank fraud.”
When asked about the allegations, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) told WCAX the claims against his wife were “nonsense.”
“This implication came from Donald Trump's campaign manager in Vermont. Let me leave it at that because it would be improper at this point for me to say anything more,” Sanders said.