Fraud Charges Mar a Plan to Aid a Struggling Vermont Region
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Jo-Ann Brooks grimaced as she looked out the window of her jewelry store in this tiny town in northern Vermont, near the Canadian border. Across Main Street, an entire block of shops and apartments was razed more than a year ago in the expectation of a new “renaissance” development that has yet to materialize. In its place is a gaping hole, with old concrete cellars.
“We call it Little Beirut,” Ms. Brooks said. “It looks like it was bombed.”
The hole is a visual monument to the failed plans of two ambitious businessmen who vowed to revitalize this struggling region, known as the Northeast Kingdom. With an $850 million dream, they promised the biggest economic development in Vermont history. They planned to finance it through a federal program that allows wealthy foreign citizens to invest $500,000 in projects in distressed areas in return for green cards, leading to permanent residency in the United States.