The Justice Department was investigating the activities of the now-defunct Burlington College as recently as February, according to emails obtained through a public records request.
The emails show the U.S. attorney for Vermont and an FBI agent reviewed Burlington College records in the state’s possession earlier this year pursuant to an investigation. Both enforcement agencies declined to comment on the substance of that probe or whether it has been completed.
“It’s typical for us not to comment or to confirm whether or not there’s a current investigation. We would not comment on any active investigation,” said Kraig LaPorte, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. An FBI spokeswoman cited a similar policy.
The chair of the Burlington College board of trustees said Thursday that the FBI investigation has been going for more than a year, and at least one former school employee was subpoenaed as part of the probe.
In January 2016, after reporting by VTDigger showing former Burlington College President Jane Sanders overstated pledged donations in applying for a loan so the school could purchase its former North Avenue campus, Republican lawyer Brady Toensing made a formal request to the U.S. attorney for a fraud investigation.
The Vermont Agency of Education took possession of records left at the college in the wake of its sudden closure in May. When a college closes, state law requires the school or the state to keep academic records so students can obtain transcripts and graduate certificates.
The same article also states:
Asked to describe the rumors, Torti said they related to “the purchase of Burlington College and how the money came about, going back to what a lot of us scratched our heads about who came to the board after (the purchase), which was what were they thinking and how did this all make sense financially.”
Jane Sanders, wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., overstated donation amounts in a bank application for a $6.7 million loan the college used to purchase a prime 33-acre property on Lake Champlain in 2010.
She told People’s United Bank in 2010 that the college had $2.6 million in pledged donations to support the purchase of the former Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington property.
The college, however, received only $676,000 in actual donations from 2010 through 2014, according to figures provided by Burlington College.
Two people whose pledges are listed as confirmed in the loan agreement told VTDigger that their personal financial records show their pledges were overstated. Neither was aware the pledges were used to secure the loan.