Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, has hired two well-known attorneys amid an ongoing investigation into allegations she defrauded a bank while serving as president of the now-defunct Burlington College.
Jane Sanders served as president of Burlington College from 2004 until 2011 and is blamed for leading the school into bankruptcy by falsifying a loan application. Rich Cassidy, a lawyer based in Burlington, Vt., and Larry Robbins, an attorney from Washington, D.C. who previously defended Scooter Libby, are representing Jane Sanders against the allegations, a representative for Sen. Sanders confirmed to Politico.
The first allegations against Jane Sanders surfaced in March 2015. The Department of Justice and the FBI will not confirm the existence of an investigation, but recent interviews conducted by officials from the FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) suggest an investigation is ongoing.
The federal probe is allegedly weighing on Sen. Sanders’ decision whether or not to run for president in 2020.
As part of an ambitious plan to boost enrollment at the college during her tenure as president, Sanders had the college take on $10 million in debt to purchase a piece of land to expand the campus.
Sanders stated in a 2010 loan application she had secured $2.6 million in promised donations to pay for the land purchase, which helped secure a $6.5 million loan from the People’s United Bank. Only $676,000 ever materialized over the next four years and the college defaulted on the loans, eventually going bankrupt in May 2016.
Carol Moore, who served as the final president of the college from 2014 until its closure in May 2016, places blame for the bankruptcy squarely on Jane Sanders. Moore confirmed to media in May the FBI contacted her as recently as a month ago regarding the allegations.
“BC’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 in an August 2016 letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Emails obtained by the Vermont Digger in April confirm FBI investigators subpoenaed Coralee Holm, the former Burlington College dean of operations, regarding the fundraising efforts for the land purchase. The emails also reveal the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont and FBI investigators reviewed records from Burlington College earlier this year.
Holm said the FBI investigators took a “filing cabinet full of donor files” and said they planned to speak with Jane Sanders. She also turned over emails from Sanders to the investigators.
Brady Toensing, a lawyer based in Washington, D.C., made a formal request to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont and the Inspector General of the FDIC in January 2016 to investigate the allegations of fraud against Sanders. Among the evidence Toensing asked the U.S. Attorney to investigate were claims that the senator’s office pressured People’s United Bank to approve the $6.5 million loan.
“The investigation was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States Attorney, all of whom are Democrats,” Toensing told Politico.
Jeff Weaver, a representative of Sanders released a statement May 3 to Vermont Public Radio, saying the FBI had not yet contacted Jane Sanders and all they know about the allegations is what they have seen in the press.