Feds Interview Pomerleau in Burlington College Investigation | Off Message

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Feds Interview Pomerleau in Burlington College Investigation


Jane O'Meara Sanders, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Tony Pomerleau in December 2017 at the Pomerleau Holiday Party in Burlington - FILE: JOHN WALTERS
  • File: John Walters
  • Jane O'Meara Sanders, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Tony Pomerleau in December 2017 at the Pomerleau Holiday Party in Burlington
Federal investigators interviewed Burlington real estate mogul Tony Pomerleau last month as part of their probe into a land deal involving Jane O'Meara Sanders.

According to Pomerleau, two federal agents visited his Queen City home early last December to ask about Burlington College's 2010 acquisition of a $10 million North Avenue campus.

"They came up and talked with me for a few minutes to half an hour," the centenarian developer told Seven Days. He said he believed the men worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Pomerleau interview is the most recent action to come to light in the federal inquiry, which began roughly two years ago. VTDigger.org first reported Sunday that former Burlington College board member Robin Lloyd provided sworn testimony in the matter to a grand jury on October 26. Former board chair Yves Bradley told Seven Days he spoke to an FBI agent and a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation investigator in mid-October. (That interview was first reported in December by Fox News.)

Bradley, who works for Pomerleau Real Estate, said Monday that he served as an intermediary between the federal agents and his boss.

"When they came to visit me they said, 'Hey, would you please let Mr. Pomerleau know we'd like to speak with him if he's willing?'" Bradley said of the FBI and FDIC agents.

Pomerleau declined to specify what the feds asked him, but he said he had little to reveal.

"There was nothing that I had with [O'Meara Sanders] that meant anything to them," he said. Asked whether he shared anything that might incriminate O'Meara Sanders, who is married to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Pomerleau said, "No. If I did, I wouldn't tell you anyway."

Pomerleau played a leading role in the Burlington College land deal, which O'Meara Sanders oversaw during her presidency of the now-defunct institution. According to an August 2017 report in VTDigger, Pomerleau personally advised O'Meara Sanders as she sought to buy the 33-acre campus from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. When a $500,000 shortfall nearly caused the deal to fall through on New Year's Eve in 2010, Pomerleau ponied up a bridge loan of that amount, VTDigger reported. He also pledged to match a $1 million commitment from another donor, though neither materialized.

Federal authorities began investigating the matter after Charlotte attorney Brady Toensing, the vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party, filed a complaint to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FDIC alleging that O'Meara Sanders had overstated the pledges the school used as collateral to secure the loan.

At least eight people associated with the college have told Seven Days that they have been contacted by federal investigators in the matter. Asked about the investigation late Sunday, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont declined to comment.

O'Meara Sanders and her husband have repeatedly denied wrongdoing. The family declined to comment on the Pomerleau interview Monday.

Bradley, who has not heard from the feds since the mid-October interview, said that its focus was clear: O'Meara Sanders.

"My understanding is they're checking into the acquisition of the college under President Sanders," he said.

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