Senator Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, has been under FBI investigation for potentially mishandling funds for the college institution she previously worked for. Unfortunately for Bernie, he is involved in the investigation by extension.
The college eventually closed its doors due to its inability to pay back a loan. Now, prosecutors are calling on state officials to testify against Jane Sanders about the fraudulent land deal where she allegedly misrepresented Burlington College’s ability to repay its loans, which resulted in the school’s foreclosure. (via Washington Post)
The federal investigation concerning this affair has been picking up speed in recent months, as prosecutors hauled off dozens of records from the college she once ran. In addition, over half a dozen people have been contacted by the FBI and federal prosecutors for interviews regarding her conduct.
Jane Sanders was a central figure in the school’s 2010 land purchase, where they needed additional capital to secure the acreage, which cost $10 million. Sanders promised trustees that the college could afford it and provided documents that “confirmed” $2.6 million in donations that could be used to repay the loan.
“My gut was, this is biting off more than you can chew, their balance sheet was not all that strong,” said Charly Dickerson, one of only two board members who were not convinced by Sanders’ presentation.
After choosing to go through with the deal, trustees began to sense problems almost immediately. “Things did not add up,” Dantzscher, another trustee, said. “The donations were not coming in.”
The college only collected around $125,000 worth of donations that summer. When college administrators got in touch, it turned out that Sanders had been misrepresenting the amount of donations she had previously stated were “confirmed.”
“What they [college administrators] were finding was different than what was represented,” said trustee David Dunn. “Multiple donors were saying they had never committed to those amounts.”
Dunn later confided how one of Sanders’ largest “confirmed” donors, who she said had pledged to donate $1 million, turned out to be quite the opposite. “In addition to that, there was a large donor who had advised the board that the donation was actually an estate gift that was going to be paid when she died, and that she was feeling quite healthy.” (via New York Times)
Sanders’ move to convince the trustees to take on this hazardous debt bears more resemblance to the tactics of a corporate raider on Wall Street than that of a college president, an ironic comparison considering her husband’s well-known reputation for his anti-Wall Street rhetoric.
In 2011, Sanders was asked to resign, and the school foreclosed due to its debt crisis.
Dantzscher commented that “everybody is a victim. The community, the students, the employees, the board of directors. Everybody gets hurt.”
After defaulting on their loan, Catholic parishioners of the Roman Catholic Diocese, who sold the land to the college in the first place, contacted the U.S. attorney to inform them that — in their view — Jane Sanders had purposely misrepresented the amount of fundraising the college would receive.
“The apparent fraud resulted in as much as $2 million in losses to the Diocese and an unknown amount of loss to People’s United Bank,” a letter written to the federal prosecutor’s office claimed.
Whether this was a case of deliberate deception or an instance of benign incompetence is yet to be determined, but as the FBI closes in on Bernie and Jane Sanders’ past, more developments are sure to follow.