- Associated Press - Thursday, September 1, 2016

BURKE, Vt. (AP) - After months of delays and some doubts, a new hotel and conference center officially opened Thursday at a Vermont ski resort owned by a Miami businessman accused of defrauding foreign investors.

The $50 million Lodge at Burke Mountain had been scheduled to open in December 2015, but was delayed due to a financial review by the state and money owed to the contractor.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time so we’re real excited. It’s very positive for the community,” said Steve Scherer of Leisure Hotels and Resorts, a Kansas-based management company that is now running Burke Mountain and Jay Peak ski resorts.

Ariel Quiros, owner of the two ski resorts, and Bill Stenger, Jay Peak’s president, were accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of misusing about $200 million from foreign investors through a visa program for various developments. Both men have said they will be cleared of wrongdoing.

Late Thursday, Stenger issued a statement saying he had reached a settlement with the SEC. Stenger said the settlement “sets up a framework to fully resolve the case the SEC filed against me.”

He said “I have not admitted nor have I denied the allegations” in the SEC’s amended complaint.

In a brief interview, Stenger declined to provide details, including whether the settlement included Quiros.

The ski-in, ski-out hotel was built with money raised from foreign investors who get a chance at U.S. residency through a special visa program, but the lodge is not cited in the investment fraud allegations. But the hotel is under the control of a federal receiver who was appointed to oversee the two resorts.

About $3.5 million is still owed to the contractor and subcontractors who worked on the hotel, said Patricia Moulton, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The 116-room hotel is about 20 percent booked for September with reservations picking up daily, hotel officials said.

“The hotel is unprecedented for the area,” said Scherer. “So that’s a new dimension to the ski area. It will give people that come up from the surrounding states an opportunity to stay here right on the mountain, experience the whole thing, which is really what it was lacking to make it a full service resort.”

A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for next Thursday.

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